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.

Almost home

Chris and I are almost home from our honeymoon: a combination of Vermont (Sugarbush and Lake Champlain areas) and a trip down to Boston and environs.

We’ve eaten lots of cheese, drank plenty of wine, sampled pizza in Boston’s little Italy an of course, enjoyed some lobster on the Atlantic ocean (sort of). Aside from all the food, we also watched a beautiful sunset over Lake Champlain and went soaring over the Green Mountains. The whole trip was fantastic with great weather (although the 30s last night was a little unexpected) and I don’t think either of us is too excited to get back to the real world.

But, its back to mid-Michigan tomorrow and back to work on Tuesday. Detailed posts of the best of the best are coming, right after I polish off the cheeses in the cooler.

Yum!

Cheese and Crackers

For dinner last night, Chris and I went simple with cheese & crackers plus a bit of wine.

Using some of the cheeses we bought at D&W in Williamston, I made up a little sampler platter with 3 cheeses and accompaniments.

Petit Basque: Smooth and light sheep-milk cheese, like a very mild swiss. This was a first tasting for both of us. Did best with a more flavorful cracker or a bit of the jam on top.

Rambol: smoky mozzarella or goat cheese like consistency, spreadable at room temp, would probably melt well. Fondue or gourmet grilled cheese? I think this was my favorite of the three even though its technically a processed cheese. At least it didn’t come from a can.

KerryGold Swiss: typical Swiss cheese, a little bit nutty. Pairs well with the jam and plain on crackers. Compared to the Petit Basque, this cheese starts to taste a bit more sharp.

Cranberry-Ginger Jam from The Jampot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Jampot is the store for a bunch of monks that make jellys, jams and other sweet treats. Last summer I bought several jars of jam from this place inclduing one jar of the fabled thimbleberry jam. Which has not been opened; at 12 bucks a jar, I’m treating it like fine wine.

Torremoron by Ribera Del Duero: A 2006 vintage Tempranillo that received 90 points from Wine Advocate. Spanish wine. We found it to be fruity, smooth, light on the tannins with just a hint of pepper. Did not pair well with the fresh grapes but I think this would make a good match up for a bbq or medium-spicy chili. Chris thought it was pretty simple and he really couldn’t differentiate any specific fruits. On-line reviews noted a strong cherry flavor but I was thinking more plum.  (we found this wine at D&W in Williamston, along with the first 2 cheeses on my list).

Crackers from Keebler and Kashi
Grapes

The RIGHT wrong turn

I’m on a bit of a blog overload tonight- too much to write about and not enough time to write.

Saturday, Chris and I ended up having quite an adventure. First we went to lunch at Sawyer’s Pancake House. I ordered a turkey burger with avocado and goat cheese. I’ve had this before and really was tempted to get something off the new dinner menu but it was too early for that much food. Chris and I split the Southwest Vegetable Wontons though. They were tasty and obviously homemade. Chris also had the yellowfin tuna sandwich, another new item. He’d eaten one earlier in the week and said its best with lettuce and tomato added. The fries have changed a little bit since my last visit. they were definitely crispier this time, maybe a little bit too crispy. But, I do like the crunchy end pieces so I “suffered’ through it. Dipped in basil mayo, you can’t go wrong anyhow.

After a few errands, we decided to go see a movie, like a lot of other people in this town. Not much else to do on a rainy day, I guess. Narrowing it down to two movies, I made the choice for the black comedy Burn after Reading. The Coen brothers are great and this movie was very typical of them. Brad Pitt, whether you think he’s a hottie or not, played his character perfectly! We had about 45 minutes to kill until the movie started so we wandered over to the Williams-Sonoma store (in Eastwood).

As we walked in the door, Chris said “try not to spend any money.” I replied, “Are you talking to me or yourself?” We wandered around, I fiddled with the gadgets, my favorite section, and wiped my drool off the glass in front of the knife cases. I turn around and who do I see at the cash register? Yep, there is Chris saying “don’t look.” Silly boy was buying a large cookie press “for me”, visions of sugarplums spritz cookies dancing in his head. I pointed out the cool Halloween cookie cutters I’d found and soon enough, we were adding that to the bag.

After the movie, we hop on 127 and I figured we were going home but then Chris stayed left and headed toward 96 Eastbound. Wouldn’t tell me where we were going either. I guessed somewhere in Okemos and that was true originally. But, too busy talking, he missed the exit for Okemos (he was planning to visit Dusty’s Cellar) and the next one isn’t until Williamston. As it happens, this week’s City Pulse had a write-up about a new restaurant in Williamston so I suggested we check it out while we were there.
The Riverhouse Inn was pretty busy and I felt a little underdressed so I just grabbed a menu and added it to our mental “to do” list. As we were driving around trying to find the place (its on Grand River, really very easy except the odd/even sides change depending on if its East or West Grand River), I remembered the D&W Fresh Market. We have shopped at one of these in Grand Rapids and while its not as nice as The Fresh Market (also in GR), they have excellent produce, carry Boarshead deli products and offer good prices on wine. Somewhere recently I had seen an ad for the new Williamston location which was filed away on that mental list. This location is smaller than the one in Grand Rapids, mostly in the deli department. We still found plenty to buy including a few new cheeses to try out (see future post). And there, on the 2nd to bottom shelf, was a label I’ve been looking for since our trip to Minneapolis in July. Idiziabal cheese, the smoky sheep-milk cheese from Spain that goes fantastic on a slice of bread with a pile of turkey. Unfortunately, it was only the label, they were out of stock of the actual cheese. Guess we’ll have to check back in a few weeks.

By the time we left the store, it was full dark and still raining. Again, I thought we were headed for home but just before turning back towards the highway, Chris said we needed to make one more stop. We pull in to a street-side parking spot and he starts walking towards what appears to be a bar or restaurant of some kind.

It wasn’t until we sat down, at the bar, that I found out the name of this place: CB’s Bucket Bar & Grill. Formerly known as the Williamston Bucket, its been re-opened under the new name for about a year after a fire destroyed the original in February 2006. The old version was a more typical bar with tvs and NASCAR memorablia, so I hear. The new version is nicely done up with a wood bar, light green coloring and a tranquil, smoke free environment.  It was very quiet but the bartender assured us that its normally busier, with Friday night being their biggest night.  I’m sure the constant rain kept many people away this weekend.

We were originally only going to have a drink but I was hungry so we decided to take a look at the menu.  Along with a few nightly dinner specials, you can order something so simple as a pub burger or get fancy with a full steak dinner.  I opted for CB’s Special Salad with grilled chicken while Chris had the Steak Bites appetizer- cubes of cooked-to-order sirloin served with bread and boursin cheese dipping sauce.  About half-way through eating this, he declared “New Rule: we are coming here at least twice a month.”  Since Williamston is not on our side of town, I don’t know if we’ll be able to stick to that but I can see coming to the D&W grocery store twice a month so we could become regulars soon enough.

We didn’t order anything complicated but sometimes simple food gets the worst of it when a place is trying too hard or trying to cover up their shortcomings. In this case, Chris’s steakbites were medium with a hint of pink as requested. My salad was made up of fresh apple slices, cucumbers, romaine and good cheese with just the right amount of dressing.  I’d much rather some places just do dressing on the side because they go overboard especially with creamy dressings.  Not a problem here.

My first glass of wine didn’t really excite me. I think my medicines are affecting my tastebuds but also it was too strong for my salad.  When I said I’d just like a glass of the house Pinot Noir, the bartender suggested I try the Mark West Pinot as its the same price ($5/glass) and much better.  She was right.  (side note: Mark West Pinot is on sale at World Market for under $10/bottle right now, we saw it Sunday).  The bartender was also our waitress/server. She was attentive and friendly but didn’t hover. As we sat there, we got involved in a conversation with another couple at the bar.  Pretty soon everyone was chatting about the economy of all things!

I had a hard time finding information about this place on the internet. This is partly because I couldn’t remember the exact name.  I finally got the word combination right and found some reviews from when they first re-opened last fall.  No website and no mention anywhere of the club they have opened on the 2nd floor. I’m not convinced that a club in Williamston is really “right” but there were about 30 people there Saturday night. It was smoky though- we didn’t actually go in.

Considering our eventful evening was all based on missing that exit for Okemos, I think it turned out all right!

Details

CB’s Bucket Bar & Grill

Hours: Mon-Fri,  11 AM -2PM (kitchen closes at 11PM)
Address: 132 Grand River Ave., Williamston (just east of the Williamston Sun Theatre)
Phone: 517655-1000

Accepts all major credit cards, smoke free!

Food Bug Updates

Things have been pretty quiet on the US of A lately, the tomato-pepper salmonella outbreak seems to be wrapping up although there is still lots of finger-pointing and grumbling about the investigation.

There is a minor recall in the Northwest involving alfalfa sprouts grown by Sprouters Northwest of Oregon.  The sprouts have been linked with a small outbreak of salmonellosis.  This is the company’s second experience with salmonella contamination, having a similar sized outbreak tied to their product in 2004.

Salmonella in sprouts has been a long running concern among sprout growers. I can recall several times over the last 10 years when sprouts were not available due to regional outbreaks. If you’ve ever tried to grow your own sprouts, you might understand why contamination is so easy.  According to this do-it-yourself guide, you grown your seeds in to sprouts in a warm, moist enclosed jar.  Sprouts love it and so do bacteria.  On a larger, commercial scale, take that jar and turn it in to a giant drum, about the size of an oil drum.  You have to run cold water over the sprouts periodically to wash away any bacteria.  Bacteria are tenacious and even one of two missed organisms will sit around and procreate while you wait to eat your sprouts.  If you have ever bought sprouts from the store and tried to wash them, you know its not the easiest process. I’m betting a lot of people skip the home-washing step.

Way back in 1999, the FDA was issuing advisories about all sprouts (not just alfalfa) after a number of outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli 0157H7 dating back to 1995.  One of their suggestions was to cook the sprouts which doesn’t sound so appetizing but maybe a quick steam would be alright.  In 2002, the USDA Agricultural Research Service conducting a study on the effect on nutritional values if sprout seeds were dosed with a low level of radiation. The study …

Results showed percent germination of the seeds and the rates of growth of the sprouts were inversely related to the radiation dose absorbed by the seeds. Both antioxidant capacity and AA content expressed on a fresh weight basis decreased during growth of the sprouts. Sprouts grown from irradiated seeds had greater antioxidant capacity and AA content on a fresh weight basis than those grown from non-irradiated seeds. However, when the nutritive values were expressed on a per gram seed basis, irradiation had no effect on the nutritive values of sprouts.

The study was published in 2002 but it was the year 2000 when the FDA approved irradiation of seeds meant for sprouts, as a method to reduce contamination by pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella. In a previous post, I mentioned that irradiated foods must be marked as such. And that is true but the rules are quite so cut and dried as you might think.

According to the Organic Consumers Association,

Consumers should be able to see the wording and radura symbol on:

* Plant foods sold in their whole form in a package (e.g., a bag of wheat flour or oranges). radura
* Fresh whole fruits and vegetables. (on the fruit, the box or a display)
* Whole meat and poultry in a package (like chicken breasts).
* Unpackaged meat and poultry (like from a butcher) (display label).
* Irradiated meat and poultry that are part of another packaged food (like irradiated chicken in a frozen chicken potpie).

Consumers will NOT see the wording or radura for:

* Multiple ingredient products where some, but not all of the individual ingredients were irradiated.
* Irradiated ingredients in foods prepared or served by restaurants, salad bars, hotels, airlines, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc.
* Irradiated foods prepared by delis or supermarket take-out counters.
* Spices and herb teas
* Sprouts grown from irradiated seeds
* Ingredients in supplements
* Plant-food ingredients that are processed again (like apples in applesauce or papaya in a salad-bar salad).

FYI, This is what the radura looks like:


Meanwhile, its not so peaceful for our Northern Neighbors. First, it was a salmonella outbreak associated with cheese in Quebec. As of September 3, eighty-seven people were confirmed ill with one death reported. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recalled cheeses made by Fromages La Chaudiere Inc. Meanwhile, eight cheeses from Fromagerie Médard of St. Gédéon and three more from Les Fromagiers de la Table Ronde of Ste. Sophie were recalled after listeria was detected in the cheeses.

Although no infections have yet been specifically tied to the cheeses contaminated with listeria, Canada has been dealing with a separate listeria outbreak, associated with products made by Maple Leaf Foods of Toronto. That outbreak, mostly associated with prepared lunch meats has led to a number of deaths (about 13 according to most recent reports). As a result of the outbreak, the company has closed the plant where the meats were processed. Listeria, while rare, has a much higher rate of mortality at 25% than “run of the mill” salmonella (1% of all salmonella infections). Like all food-borne pathogens, the elderly, the very young and the immune-compromised are at greater risk of serious illness and complications from listeriosis. Listeria infection is also known for inducing early labor in pregnant women.

The interesting thing about the recalls here versus those in Canada is that the Canadian Ministry has the right to force a recall. In the US, the FDA and USDA work with the companies that may be the source of the contaminated food but the government can’t declare a recall, they just issue advisories. Its up the company to issue the recall and they can even pick and choose the parameters of the recall, i.e., the amount of product, the places where it may be found, etc.