Out of the box Lasagna

Another recipe from the Real Simple maga-book. I’ve actually been thinking about this one in the back of my head but it hadn’t been quite the right night for it.

Until tonight. I had a bunch of errands to run so I got home about an hour later than usual but still before Chris. He’d done some light grocery shopping earlier in the day but we didn’t have a ton of fresh stuff on hand. What we did have was some things that needed using up, ASAP.

The original recipe called for frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained. I do have spinach in the freezer but decided to go a different route.

Ingredients
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 package ravioli (frozen or thawed)- I used a chicken ravioli, medium sized from Sam’s Club
1 jar pasta sauce (organic basil, may I suggest)
1 8oz package shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup 3-cheese mix with parmesan
Garlic seasoning
oregano, fresh

Directions

Preheat oven to 350

While oven is heating, saute onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat with some garlic seasoning. Cook until onions are lightly golden. Near end of cooking time, stir in fresh oregano or other fresh herbs of your choosing.

In a 9×13 baking dish, layer 1/3 of pasta sauce in the bottom then half the raviolis. Top with more sauce, half of mozzarella cheese and onions/mushroom mixture. Add second layer of raviolis and finish with last of sauce, remainder of mozzarella and the 3-cheese mix.

Bake, covered with foil, for 25 mintues. Remove foil and continue to bake another 10 minutes or until cheese turns golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven. Ideally, let set for 10 minutes to allow cheese to set up.

Served with mixed green salad.


No picture – C’mon you know what lasagna looks like! It was way too gloomy to try for nice natural light pictures anyhow. And we were hungry.
Super super easy. Next time I hope to do both the added mushrooms/onions and the spinach.

Pork fried rice

The beginning questions on Who wants to be a Millionaire? are absurdly lame. Normally I am still cooking (and normally we don’t watch this channel) so I would never be sitting to hear the lame-o questions.

But tonight, Chris and I were both pretty hungry as soon as I came home from work so I decided to make something quick-quick. And what’s quicker than stir-fry?!? I had a huge thing of rice left over from earlier in the week so I decided to make fried rice. Then I opened the meat that had been removed from the fridge this AM to defrost. Pork chops, bone-in. That did slow me down a little but I recovered and dinner went from oil heating in the pan to scooping it on the plate in less than 25 minutes.

image

Ingredients

1/2 onion, small dice
1/2 red pepper, small dice
1 medium carrot, sliced thin or diced
3 green onions, sliced with green tops
4 leaves kale, torn in to small pieces, tough stems removed
2 large pork chops, meat trimmed from bone and diced
2 eggs

Peanut Oil
sesame oil
soy sauce
fish sauce
garlic
Chinese five spice powder

Directions

1. Heat Peanut oil over medium-high heat in a wok or other large skillet (I used the Everyday Pan from Calphalon).

2. Season pork with salt, pepper and a few pinches of Chinese Five Spice powder then add to pan (watch for splatters!)

3. Cook pork completely then remove from pan using a slotted spoon. Keep warm

4. Add garlic to pan, stir and cook about 30 seconds.

5. Add regular onion, red pepper and carrots to pan. Depending on how much fat comes out of your pork, you may want to add a bit more oil first. Splash in some sesame oil, soy sauce and a few drops of fish sauce Allow to cook until onions start to soften.

6. Add rice, kale and green onion, stir to combine. Add a little more sesame oil and plenty of soy sauce. Coat the rice until its a light brown color. You could also add other Chinese type seasonings here.

7. Create a well in the middle of the food in the pan. Crack 2 eggs in to the pan and quickly stir to break the yolk then begin mixing the egg in to the rice so it coats everything as it cooks. Alternatively, you could let the eggs fry in the center (make a bigger well) then when cooked, mix the fried egg in to the rice, breaking it up as you go.

Lobster Salad & Chris’s SuperSpecial Tomato Soup

Chris has a soup, tomato-based, that he likes to make on occasion. It makes a ton of soup so we sometimes freeze it but it becomes part of lunch for the next several days too. He made that soup today. Yesterday, he picked up some lobster tails at Meijer which we let thaw overnight in the fridge.

Since he’d made the soup during the day, I was in charge of the lobster preparation. I considered just boiling or broiling them with butter but they were smaller tails and I wasn’t sure how sweet the meat was going to be. Then I remembered we have picked up some challah rolls at the Grain Train in Petoskey over the weekend. Voila- the lobster roll! I used a recipe from Eating Well as my base.

Lobster Salad on Challah buns

Ingredients

2 5-ounce lobster tails
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, approx.
2 challah buns (or hot dog rolls or bread of your choice)
1/2 cup sugar peas, trimmed
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon, or less, sugar

Directions

1. Heat broiler.

2. Cut lobster tails in half using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Brush meat side of tails with olive oil

3. Place, cut side up, under broiler. Broil 3-5 minutes, until shells are turning red, and meat begins to brown on top. Flip and cook another 2 minutes until shells are bright red and meat is opaque. Remove and let cool.

4. Combine celery, mayo, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, tarragon, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a bowl.

5. Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Add sugar snap peas, cooking just until peas turn bright green. Drain and let cool slightly.

6. When both the lobster and peas have cooled enough to handle: remove lobster meat from shells and chop coarsely. Slice the peas width-wise in to thin pieces.

7. Combine peas and lobster with the dressing. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld.

8. Slice challah rolls and toast lightly (either under broiler or in toaster/toaster oven). Pile high with lobster salad and dig in!


Because the lobster meat wasn’t particularly sweet, I added a little sugar to the dressing. This is definitely a taste preference and would vary depending on the type of lobster. This lobster was from South America and the shells were more tan/brown than you might be used to seeing on American East Coast caught lobsters. Whether this difference is because it was a different kind of lobster or simply the season of the catch, I felt it needed a little sweetness boost.


Chris’s SuperSpecial Tomato Soup

If you are my mom, don’t like lobster or really like tomato soup, you probably skipped right down to this section. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe for this soup. Ha-HA!

Here are some basics, though:

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 carton Imagine creamy tomato soup
1 small can tomato sauce
Onion
Celery
Carrots
Sage
Thyme
Basil
Cilantro- fresh!
Dried hot pepper flakes (small amount, optional)
salt & pepper
Garlic
Corn (1/2 can)
Olive oil & butter
fingerlings, red skins or other thin-skinned potatoes

Small dice the celery, carrots & onions. Saute in equal amounts olive oil and butter in a large stockpot.

Add seasonings (no measurements here) but Chris says mostly sage, then thyme and basil. He adds some cilantro now but most comes in after its been simmering.

Add tomato products & potatoes (which have been sliced in to thin rounds, maybe quartered first). Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer 20 minutes. Add corn and rest of fresh cilantro. Continue cooking about 5 minutes more.

Options: Add water with tomatoes for a thinner soup. Or add cream for a creamier soup. You can also mash up the stewed tomatoes a bit and/or blend some of it with an immersion blender. We don’t do that because I don’t have one. Yet.

We have also made this with wild rice instead of potatoes- that needs to cook longer or be pre-cooked and added towards the end.


Originally, Chris was going to add some kale to the soup as apparently he really likes it. Then he forgot. So, I made Kale Chips, using this recipe from Steamy Kitchen. We just added them to the top of the soup bowls but you can eat them out of hand too.

Basically, tear a couple cups of kale in to small pieces. Dry very thoroughly using a salad spinner. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss with a bit of olive oil (a teaspoon or so?). Bake in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes until kale is crackly but not browning. Season with salt as per the recipe, OR use something like Maple Sugar Garlic Pepper, our latest go-to for all things that normally would get salt (i.e. popcorn, baked sweet potato fries, bread and butter (that is all Chris, I might add)). We might have to start rationing this, a jar purchased in Vermont on our honeymoon, until I find a more local source. Next time we go to Vermont, possibly as soon as this August, I’m going to buy 6 jars or more.

Carrot Mushroom Barley Stew

Or, Mushroom Carrot Barley Stew. Or even Barley Stew with carrots and mushrooms.  Also includes kale, carrots, onions and ginger.

My Christmas Present!

Earlier this week, I tweeted about prepping for a pork stew in the slow cooker. I cut the veggies and combined things in plastic containers so that come morning, Chris could just toss things in, season the pork and set the crockpot on low. I would get home from work around 5 pm which would be the right time to take the pork out and shred it then serve.

It all worked perfectly. But.  But.

It was not tasty. Not at all.

Fatty/greasy broth and you could barely taste the aromatics (allspice and thyme plus garlic and ginger). This recipe was one of several I’d pulled from a copy of Food Network TV magazine. Last Sunday I’d made a chicken chili, using a recipe in an advertisement for crockpots and it was delicious. In fact, I’m going to make it again this week since my slow cooker is small and I had to halve the original recipe so I have extra everything.

But this pork stew was not good. We tried adding salt/pepper. We tried adding various acids to cut the fatty taste. I added fresh herbs. Nope, nada, nothing. I put the whole thing in the fridge as we were going to the movies. Now, its sitting in there, hogging my slow cooker insert with a not very appetizing layer of congealed fat on top. Mocking me.

So…. it was with great apprehension that I went forward with my plan to make this Barley stew tonight. I have been itching to use my new Le Creuset pot, I had all the ingredients and no real purpose for the shiitake mushrooms than this recipe. It was time to bite the bullet.

Now, I’m going to have to make a third recipe from the magazine to break the tie.

This soup was fantastic.

It smelled amazing in the pot, especially when I was toasting the barley and mushrooms.

This smelled divine!

The carrot added some sweetness which was balanced by the earthy mushrooms and just slightly bitter kale. This will defiinitely go on the repeat list.

Carrot-Mushroom Barley Soup

Ingredients

2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, including leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 medium carrots, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated ginger
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Bring carrot juice, 3 cups water and mushrooms stems to a boil in a saucepan

2. Heat olive oil and two tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and barley, stirring to coat. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until barley is toasted.

3. Add onion, celery and rosemary, season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add carrots and cook 2 more minutes.

5. Increase heat to high and add half of carrot juice, omitting mushroom stems. Bring to a boil and cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes.

6. Add remaining carrot juice, kale and ginger, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in remaining two tablespoons butter.

8. Serve!

Notes: Everything took longer than listed but that could just be me being conservative and trying to work out the best temp for my new cast-iron pot.

I added more rosemary, probably doubling to 1/2 teaspoon. I still didn’t notice it being strong in the end product but if you don’t like rosemary, stick with the original.

The recipe indicates this makes 4 servings at 333 calories each. I can’t imagine eating a full one-quarter of the pot-full of soup. Both Chris and I had big bowls and I still divided the rest up in to 3 more containers which felt like a lot of food per person. I also question the nutrition analysis based on this have 4 tablespoons of butter and two of olive oil.

Final Product- Look at those colors!

Ah-ha, I ran this recipe through Nutrition Data’s analyzer and it came back as 495 calories per serving, assuming we divide the total by 4. Thus, the calories listed at 333 are probably right for the size of serving I had and I would call the “serves 4” an error.

This was a great first dish for the Le Creuset- next up will have to be something from the newly arrived Art of French Cooking since Julie & Julia inspired the purchase to begin with.

**Full disclosure: those last two pictures are Photoshopped. I was playing with Actions and that last one, Sunshine, perfectly described how this soup stew tasted to me. Also, it counteracts the high noise levels becuase I was shooting in horrible light and had to boost the ISO.

Jambalaya

Monday happened to land Chris and I in Livonia for an appointment. This was a good turn of events as I had to exchange a mis-sewn chair cover purchased at IKEA back in October. This also became an opportunity to visit Whole Foods. We used the GPS to find the closest one (to IKEA) which turned out to be the more southern Ann Arbor location, between A2 and Ypsilanti. I have, somehow, never been inside this particular Whole Foods- maybe its a relocation?- although I have been to the Panera right next store. Anyhow, its huge and now I’m going to be sad next time I go to a smaller location. I’m not a fan of the one in West Bloomfield/Farmington- I feel like I’m missing a whole section every time. The deli area is either a really good thing or a really bad thing- depends on how much money I am looking to spend and how hungry I am. A-hem.

Because the appointment went over the lunch hour we decided to eat before shopping. After walking through the entire store, we realized that if you just turn right immediately upon entering, you can go along the wall and come in to the deli area. In this area, you can buy whatever you like and go eat it in a small cafe area. I made a salad and Chris opted for the hot buffet.

Duly nourished, we started shopping. Our mission was to get things we couldn’t get in Lansing and focus on healthy stuff. We still came home with a block of cheese and 2 bottles of wine (reminds me, we might need to start drinking this stuff soon- our rack is full again). We also picked up some Key West Pinks, the only shrimp Chris will eat, a number of bags from the produce section and 2 packages of gourmet sausages: pork andouille and a chicken chorizo from Sausages by Amylu.

Right away, with a planned focus on eating more rice in my future, I knew I’d take the andouille sausage to make some jambalaya. Not that I have the slightest idea what goes in to an authentic jambalaya except rice.

Internet to the rescue! Except, there are thousands of recipes for jambalaya using various proteins, mostly. Ideally, I would have made a shrimp and sausage combo but someone was supposed to work on deveining the shrimp earlier and did not. I ended up scanning about 10 recipes and then just winged it.

Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup long grain rice
1 can diced tomatoes (any flavor will do, I happened to only have “with basil, garlic and oregano”)
1 1/2 cups water/vegetable/chicken broth
8-10 oz andouille sausage, sliced
1/3 cup corn (frozen/defrosted or can)- optional
1 bay leaf
1 /2 Tbsp dried thyme
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Parsley or Cilantro to garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan (like the everyday pan from Calphalon).

Once oil is warmed and shimmering, saute onion and garlic until onions are lightly golden. Add salt, pepper, cayenne and thyme to onions. Cook just enough to release aromatics in herbs.

Add bell pepper and cook for another minute or two.

Add rice and stir to coat, allowing the rice to absorb some of the oil. You can let this cook for 1-2 minutes until you smell the nutty fragrant of toasted rice.

Add tomatoes and water or broth along with bay leaf and bay seasoning. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 20 minutes or until rice has absorbed most of liquid.

Add sausages and corn, allow to cook until sausages are just cooked through.  Serve garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro.


Notes:

1. Corn, as noted in ingredient list, is optional. I only used it because we had some leftover that needed to be used within 24 hours.

2. The sausages I used were pre-cooked so they just needed to be heated up at the end. If raw sausages are used, I’d suggest cooking them in the pan first then using the drippings to cook the onions, etc.

3. Adjust cayenne pepper to your taste and also the heat in the sausages.

4. If I’d added shrimp to this, I would have used more Old Bay Seasoning. Usually when we boil shrimp, we use Bay Seasoning and pickling spice. Chris is in charge of this process so the exact ratios aren’t known to me. But, the Old Bay is required, I’m told.