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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 40

Part two of Sunday’s impromptu brunch. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand for this frittata and it was delicious and easy. A great change from our normal eggs over medium. Also, this really stayed with me all day. I wasn’t  hungry for hours after eating this.

It’s been a busy week so far. I braved the icy roads on Monday morning to teach BodyPump at 6 a.m. Although it was a small crowd we still got a great class in. After work Monday I headed to the Y again to hit the treadmill for day one of my new half marathon training schedule. I really wanted to run outside but there was still a lot of ice on the sidewalks and Brandon told me that my clumsiness + the ice = recipe for disaster. I ran a half mile warm up, 3 miles at tempo speed (about 8:30 pace) and a half mile cool down for a total of 4 miles. After a lot of deliberation I decided to use the Furman FIRST program. I’ll run three times a week – tempo, speed and long. This plan just seemed to work the best for my schedule with teaching BodyPump and maintaining my yoga practice. I don’t think I’d ever want to follow a three day a week program for marathon training (just not enough miles and time on the road) but I do think that it’s great for me to maintain a balance for half marathon training. I’ll keep you guys posted on how it works for me.

Tonight I headed to Y2 Yoga for a hot vinyasa class and it was HARD. The class wasn’t any harder than usual but I think my legs were done after my Sunday yoga practice and two workouts yesterday. My balance was off and I was just sore. But sometimes it’s good to have to dig down deep to make it through. It challenges you in a whole new way – both mentally and physically.

Back to the frittata. I will definitely be making this again. It was a Sunday brunch treat! I think this would be a great dinner too when you’re looking for something simple and flavorful. I think it would be nice with a side salad and a light vinaigrette.

Herbed Ham and Cheddar Frittata
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 1995)

Ingredients:

2 scallions, minced (I used about 2 tablespoons of minced shallot instead – delicious!)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/4 pound ham steak or thick ham slices from deli, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat an 8-inch heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, scallions or shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg mixture to scallion mixture and cook, without stirring, 2 minutes. Add ham and cook, without stirring, 8 minutes, or until edges are set but center is still soft.

While frittata is cooking, preheat broiler.

Sprinkle cheddar over top of frittata and broil about 4 inches from heat until cheese is bubbling, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley and cut into wedges.

Yield: 2 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 37

It’s Wednesday night…which means I’m on my own! Brandon is in a bowling league (seriously) on Wednesday nights so I get to enjoy a night of eating whatever I want and watching what  I want on TV. Glorious! :) Tonight I had leftover Coconut Red Lentil Curry, a salad and a chocolate chip cookie.  It’s always some sort of meat-free feast!

It’s been a very relaxing night. I took the day off from exercising because I haven’t had a rest day in over two weeks and I’m just tired and my body needs a break. I’ve started teaching a BodyPump class on Monday mornings at 6 a.m. and it’s been a big adjustment. The 5 a.m. wake up call is very early for me. I know I’ll get used to it but so far I feel like I start the week in a sleep deficit.  The good thing is that I have a class full of people up early with me and they are ready to work!

Yesterday I went to a hot vinyasa class at Y2 Yoga. I’m so sad that my one month unlimited “new student” pass is ending! My brother-in-law and his wife gave me a pass to try this studio for Christmas. Obviously, I’ve definitely been using the free month to its fullest extent! So now I have to make the decision whether to buy a 10 class pass or a month unlimited. There’s about a $25 difference in price. I’m just not sure which is the right fit. I know I’ve been all about the yoga lately but I’m starting a new half marathon training plan on February 1. I dont’ know if I can fit in teaching BodyPump, running 4-5 days a week and utilizing a month unlimited pass to it’s fullest extent? Thoughts?

Okay…back to food. I’m sure you’re confused about the meaty pasta dish in the picture above since I’ve been going on and on about vegetarian dinners and working out. I made this dish on Monday night. It’s a Greek dish – Lamb and Eggplant Pastitsio. I was craving eggplant and love Greek food so this recipe hit the spot.

It was so good…the cinnamon added an awesome warm flavor to the lamb sauce and the nutmeg I added to the cheese sauce complimented it perfectly. Although it took a couple hours start to finish, the end result was totally worth it. And it’s not all hands on time – lots of simmering and baking time in there too. I thought the double layer was really fun – you mix the bottom pasta layer with the meat sauce and the top pasta layer with the cheese sauce. Yum! I’m so embarrassed to admit that we both went back for not only seconds but thirds! And we had the leftovers again last night. If you’re a Greek food lover this is a must try. And just a side note, I think you could sub beef for the lamb if you’re not a fan of lamb.

Lamb and Eggplant Pastitsio
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, October 2001)

Ingredients:

FOR THE LAMB SAUCE
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 garlic clove
1 whole clove or a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 pound feta, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs

FOR THE PASTA
10 ounces penne (3 cups)

Directions:

FOR THE LAMB SAUCE
Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add lamb and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring to break up lumps. Cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, oregano, cinnamon, sugar and pepper and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is just tender, about 40 minutes. Remove lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes more. Season generously with salt and pepper.

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While meat sauce is simmering, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and add garlic clove and whole clove or nutmeg. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add feta, salt and pepper and cook, whisking vigorously, until cheese is well incorporated.

Beat eggs in a large bowl and slowly add sauce to eggs, whisking constantly.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Slightly undercook the pasta since it will finish in the oven. Drain in a colander. Toss half of pasta with lamb sauce and half with cheese sauce.

TO ASSEMBLE PASTITSIO
Pour pasta with lamb sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon pasta with cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly.

Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until bubbling and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 10

I just finished sampling a slice of this cheesecake. I love cheesecake and I love pumpkin and this combination didn’t disappoint. Brandon’s first comment was, “I can’t believe how much it tastes like pumpkin pie.” I think what I like best about it is that it’s not too sweet. The balance of flavors is perfect and the texture is nice.

This cheesecake was published in Gourmet in November 2000. It’s received over 300 reviews and maintains a 4-fork rating. It’s definitely a winner if you’re looking for a holiday dessert. This cheesecake is a nice change from the traditional pumpkin pie. But don’t save it only for Thanksgiving, it’s a great dessert to serve throughout the fall and holiday season.

I substituted ginger snaps for the graham crackers in the crust because I love holiday cheesecakes with ginger snap crust. Also, you can omit the bourbon if you’d like but the bourbon flavor is not very strong.

If you’re a cheesecake and pumpkin lover this dessert is for you!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping
(Recipe source Gourmet, November 1990)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST
3/4 cup graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

FOR THE TOPPING
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the crumbs, pecans and sugars in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and press mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of springform pan. Chill crust for 1 hour.

FOR THE FILLING
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and granulated sugar for about 3 minutes. Add in cream, cornstarch, vanilla and bourbon and mix until incorporated. Add in pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into chilled crust and bake the cheesecake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the center is just set. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes (leaving the oven on).

MAKE THE TOPPING
Whisk together sour cream, sugar and bourbon in a bowl.

Spread sour cream mixture evenly over top of the cheesecake. Bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for at least an hour. Place in refrigerator and chill covered overnight.

Release cheesecake from pan and serve.

Yield: 8-10 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 9

I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want to gush so much that you think I’m crazy but this macaroni and cheese recipe is pretty life changing as far as mac and cheese recipes go. If you think you’ve already found the perfect recipe you still have to try this one. I found it in The Gourmet Cookbook. They had me at, “this is arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.”

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort food dinners. I just serve it with a green salad and call it a meal. (Who needs meat anyway when you can just eat more mac and cheese!?) The method in this recipe is pretty basic for mac and cheese: make a roux, stir in milk, cream and cheese, mix in macaroni, sprinkle on topping and bake. The results are a creamy, cheesy mac and cheese with a crunchy topping – heaven!

I’m already planning the next time that I’ll make this…and that will be this weekend. My sister-in-law just brought home a new baby and I know they will love this mac and cheese. This recipe makes a full 11 x 17 pan so it’s perfect for leftovers or entertaining.

Please try this and let me know how it compares to other mac and cheese recipes! This has definitely been one of the highlight recipes of 68 Days of Gourmet so far and I know I’ll be making this for years to come.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

FOR TOPPING
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko or coarse dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

FOR CHEESE SAUCE AND MACARONI
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 3-4 quart baking dish or 13 x 9 pan with butter or cooking spray.

FOR THE TOPPING
Mix together panko, butter and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE SAUCE
Melt butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently until mixture is thickened a bit. Stir in cream, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

COOK THE MACARONI AND ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Cook macaroni according to package directions, making sure to add plenty of the salt to the cooking water. (At least 1 tablespoon for every 4 quarts.) Undercook macaroni about 3-4 minutes so that it still has quite a bite to it. This ensures the pasta won’t get mushy when cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and then drain noodles.

Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and sauce in a large bowl or in your sauce pot if it’s big enough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, mixture will be loose.

Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Top should be golden and bubbling.

Yield: 8 main course servings or 12-14 side dish servings

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fetapotatosalad

We went to visit our friends Cristen and Graham in Baxley, Georgia this weekend. We watched the Georgia/Florida football game on Saturday which sadly didn’t have a very happy ending for the Bulldogs. During the game the boys slow cooked a Boston Butt on the grill and Cristen and I whipped up this potato salad. This is one of her favorite potato recipes but I’d never tried it after years of hearing her talk about it.

It was simple to put together and packed with flavor. We served it chilled but I think it would be good served warm as well. The leftovers were tasty with lunch today – the flavors had really developed overnight in the fridge. I’m always looking for inspiration on new ways to use potatoes and will definitely be making this again.

And because I can’t resist…I must share a picture of their adorable daughter in her Halloween pumpking costume!

camillepumpkin

Feta Potato Salad
(Recipe adapted from Southern Living)

Ingredients:

3  pounds  small new potatoes, diced
2/3  cup  olive oil
1/2  cup  fresh lemon juice
1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1  teaspoon  kosher or sea salt
3/4  teaspoon  pepper
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Whisk together oil and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over potatoes and add green onions, parsley and feta. Toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.

Yield: 8-10 side dish servings

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lasagnapan

I have a confession. There are a few simple things that I just cannot seem to master. Among those are pancakes, gravy, biscuits and lasagna. Seriously, who can’t make pancakes and lasagna? It’s embarrassing. Well, last weekend I was craving traditional lasagna. This is strange for me because I’m not the biggest traditional meat lasagna fan – I usually go for the veggie stuff. I’m good about trying to overcome my culinary weaknesses so I decided to give it a go. I researched recipes for longer than I’d like to admit before finally deciding on this Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna on epicurious.com. I figured if it had received 4-fork reviews from 325 people it must be good.

I’m happy to report that it wasn’t just good…it was awesome. I probably said to Brandon five times during dinner, “Wow, this is really delicious. I can’t believe I made good lasagna.” I loved the flavor combination with the homemade sauce, Italian sausage and fresh basil. I’ve decided that I prefer using all Italian sausage versus a sausage/ground beef mixture. If you’re going to make this lasagna DO NOT skip making the homemade sauce. It is so simple and makes a huge difference in the flavor.

Now on to modifications that I did make to the original recipe. First, I read multiple reviews that there was not enough sauce. I corrected this by using a smaller pan – 9 x 11 instead of 9 x 13. It was just Brandon and me and we can never finish a whole pan anyway. Alternatively, I recommend increasing the sauce recipe by one half. It would have been nice to have extra sauce for the leftovers too. Second, I was totally not in the mood to deal with cooking and draining lasagna noodles. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just use uncooked noodles in the lasagna (I didn’t even use the “no-boil” noodles). I rinsed them in water first to dampen them and made sure they were completely covered by sauce. I was extremely pleased to find that they’d cooked perfectly when I served the lasagna.

One final recommendation is to make sure to let  your lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. I think this makes the biggest difference in having a pretty lasagna that holds together and doesn’t turn into a mess on the plate.

So now that I’ve overloaded you with my ramblings and recommendations, here’s the recipe.

Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna
(Recipe source epicurious.com, originally printed in Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

FOR THE SAUCE
1 pound spicy or sweet (your preference) Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

FOR THE ASSEMBLY
12 lasagna noodles
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
Nonstick cooking spray
Aluminum foil

Directions:

FOR THE SAUCE
Brown Italian sausage in a large saucepan over medium heat until crumbly and cooked through. Drain and wipe down pan.

Heat olive oil in same pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until they begin to look transparent and soft. Add garlic, red pepper and oregano and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and cooked sausage and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

FOR THE FILLING
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until combined.

FOR THE ASSEMBLY
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in bottom of baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles and spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.

Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover and increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

lasagna

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increduladaenchiladas

These Incredulada Enchiladas have gained quite a fan base. Once you scroll down and read the ingredients to the recipe I guarantee you’ll think, “Are you kidding me?” They are a splurge but always a crowd pleaser.

My mother in law introduced us to Incredulada Enchiladas and they are well, incredible. I’ve shared the recipe with friends, served them at parties, taken them to expecting mothers and they’re always a hit. What’s not to love about the creamy chicken filling topped with cream and cheese? Garnish with sour cream and salsa and you’re in for a treat!

Incredulada Enchiladas
(Recipe adapted from A Third Course: More Cooking with Class from Charlotte Latin School)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (about 3 chicken breasts)
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas (soft taco size)
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (or your choice, this time I used the Mexican blend)
Cooking spray
Salsa
Sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sautee onions until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add garlic, chilies and peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese and chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture into tortillas, roll and place seam side down in baking dish. Pour cream over enchiladas and cover with cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cream thickens and cheese is bubbly.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

increduladapan

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lasagnaveggierollfgts

I’m visiting my grandmother for a few days. When I arrived this afternoon she had planned Veggie Lasagna Rolls for dinner. My grandmother definitely shares my sentiment that not every meal has to include meat. I was really excited that she had chosen this dinner after indulging in lots of July 4th burgers and hot dogs yesterday.

She had prepped all of the ingredients so all I had to do was assemble everything. How nice is that? I would like a full-time sous chef please! These rolls are definitely much easier to prepare than traditional lasagna. You could do anything you are feeling with the filling. I think a traditional ricotta/Italian sausage combo would be excellent in these too. I personally loved the veggies and recommend you try these!

Veggie Lasagna Rolls
(Recipe adapted from Kroger My Recipes)

Ingredients:

7-8 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained (number needed will depend on your roll size and filling amount)
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
Cooking spray
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 11 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, egg white, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and saute red pepper, zucchini and mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add chopped spinach and stir until wilts. Remove from heat and let mixture cool.

Combine vegetables with ricotta. Spread the cheese mixture over noodles in a thin layer, working one at a time. Like so…

lasagnaveggierollexample

Roll up and place in prepared baking dish, seam side down. You should have anywhere from 6-8 rolls. Spoon marinara sauce over each roll and cover with foil. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Yield: 3-4 servings (if you’re piggy like me and eat 2 per serving!)

lasagnarollspan

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eggplantnapoleanpmarinara

I’m always looking for inspriation for new vegetarian dinners. I love eggplant and Brandon loves tomato, mozzerella and basil so I thought this creation would be a great compromise for us. I saw this recipe for Grilled Eggplant Napoleons on Lime in the Coconut. I wanted to put a little more of a “parmesan”-style twist on it and did mine in the oven since Brandon wasn’t around to man the grill.

All in all, I’m pleased with the way this turned out. I was happy to avoid breading the eggplant and even though I used a fair amount of fresh mozzerella I still felt like it was healthier than traditional eggplant paremsan. I would also be very interested to try the original recipe from Lime in the Coconut. It sounds delicious with the grilled eggplant and pesto!

Eggplant Napoleon Parmesan
(Recipe inspired by Lime in the Coconut)

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant
1 tomato, sliced
6 fresh basil leaves
6 slices fresh mozzarella
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat broiler on high.

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place in a collander or on a wire rack to weep for about 15 minutes. Blot with a paper towel to wipe off salt and soak up excess water.

Place eggplant on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil for about 3-5 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Spoon marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Place eggplant on top of marinara. Layer with tomato, basil and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper.

Place back in oven to cook for an additional 10 minutes. You can turn the broiler back on the last couple minutes of cooking if you want to brown your cheese.

Remove from oven. Serve with pasta and additional marinara sauce, if desired.

Yield: 3 servings

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