Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Mom’s Delicious Lasagna

I love, love, love lasagna!  It’s one of those comfort foods that I always can eat large amounts of!  My mom’s homemade lasagna recipe is the best.  I love it!  That’s all I need to say about that!



Mom’s Delicious Lasagna

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef, turkey, or Italian sausage (whatever you prefer, I use Italian sausage)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 10 oz. pk. frozen chopped spinach (optional)
1 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 pkg. oven ready lasagna noodles or 8 oz. lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
2 c. cottage cheese
3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced

Instructions:

Saute the onion and garlic in oil over medium high heat until tender.  Add the meat and brown.  Add tomato sauce, paste, spinach, water, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

In a 9×13 baking dish, place 1/2 of the lasagna noodles across the bottom of the dish.  Layer 1/2 of the cottage cheese, 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, and half of the mozzarella cheese.  Add half of the meat sauce.  Repeat the layers.  Use the remaining 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese on top.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes and until hot and bubbly.  Remove pan from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before cutting into it.  Slice and serve.

Husband Rating:

Food for Thought: This is an easy make-ahead and freeze kind of meal.  I usually double or triple it if I am going to go through the work of making it and put a few in the freezer.  Simply make the sauce and assemble the lasagna.  Prior to baking, cover the lasagna and freeze.  When you plan to  cook it, set it in the fridge to thaw or plan for additional baking time.

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Beef Barley Soup

    Homemade soup is not my strength. I would like to get better at it but I am just not that good at it. My mother-in-law however is the queen of making homemade soups. Her’s always turn out amazingly delicious without any kind of recipe.  You know, where she just kind of dumps whatever she has in her cupboards and fridge in a pot and it turns out delicious!  And, my husband always rates my soups against what his mom’s are like. No pressure, right?

    (And, by the way, I love my mother-in-law dearly!  She is wonderful, not your typical
    MIL relationship in any way!)  🙂

    So, I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to invite my in-laws over for dinner on a night I decided to make a homemade soup. I mean, really?  Soup???? For the queen of homemade soups???

    Luckily, Iowagirl’s recipes haven’t failed me in the past and this one followed suit.  This Beef Barley Soup was amazing!  Everyone loved it!  The soup was delicious, meaty, hearty, and healthy.  And, we had plenty left over.  I was able to freeze a big batch for another meal for our family in a few weeks.  The best kind of leftovers! 

    Beef Barley Soup

    Recipe adapted from www.iowagirleats.com

    1lb lean ground beef

    1 small onion, processed or chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    3 large carrots, chopped
    3 ribs celery, chopped
    3 c. kale, stems removed and chopped
    1-14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes
    3 c. frozen green beans
    1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
    4-6 c. beef broth
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1 bay leaf
    3/4 cup barley
    salt & pepper
    Worcestershire sauce
     
    Instructions
     
    Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add ground beef, onion and garlic, and season with salt & pepper. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Add carrots and celery and continue to cook until carrots are tender, about 3-4 more minutes.
    Add in kale, tomatoes, green beans, corn, 4 cups beef broth, basil, bay leaf and barley. Bring the soup to a boil.  Place a lid on top, lower the heat, and simmer for 60 minutes, or until the barley is tender. 
    The longer you cook the soup, the better it tastes.  After the initial 60 minutes of simmering, I left it on low on the stove most of the afternoon before we ate it.  The flavor just kept getting better.  Keep checking to see if the soup needs more broth.  I added as much as 2 cups of broth as I was cooking the soup.
    Add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce and season with more salt & pepper to taste before serving.
     
    Husband Rating: 8 out of 10 (highest soup rating possible – in his mind, soups can never be a 10)
     
    Food for Thought: I had tons of leftover of this soup.  I froze it and plan to simply heat it up again for the meal.  If you are going to do this, plan to have some extra beef broth on hand.  Most likely you will need to add a bit when reheating the soup. 
     
     

    I wished I had taken a picture… Brussels Sprouts in Honey Butter

    Do you like brussels sprouts?  No?  Well, this recipe will change your mind.  These brussels sprouts were seriously the best brussels sprouts I have ever eaten in my entire life and I am so, so, so sad that I didn’t get a picture of them.  They were the most delicious, yummy, flavorful, sweet, salty, amazing brussels sprouts I have ever eaten.

    My husband had gone out to dinner for work and his co-worker ordered brussls sprouts.  When asking the waiter what made them so good, the waiter said they were cooked in honey.  Honey?  Yes, honey.  Man, that is the secret ingredient!  Yummmmm!  I never was much of a honey girl growing up so it is not something I think of often to use when cooking.  This was key in making these little brussels sprouts go from good vegetable side dish to star of the meal!  I was almost glad my little boys put up a protest on eating brussels sprouts.  More for me!!! 

    Brussels Sprouts in Honey Butter

    Adapted from www.hungrydesi.com

    1 lb. brussels sprouts
    1 Tbsp. honey
    1 Tbsp. butter, soften
    sea salt

    Cut stems off brussels sprouts and peel off any yellow or brown leaves from the outside.  Cut each brussels sprout in half.

    In a small bowl, stir together honey and butter.

    In a large skillet, melt honey butter over medium high heat until bubbling.  Add in brussels sprouts cut side down.  Cook without stirring for about 8-10 minutes until sprouts get browned and slightly charred on one side.

    Give the pan a good shake allowing most of the sprouts to flip.  Sprinkle generously with salt.  Add 1-2 Tbsp. water and cover pan.  Cook another 3-5 minute so sprouts are soft throughout.  Test with a fork.

    Serve immediately.  *Optional, top with Parmesan cheese.

    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Not a recipe I would normally have cooked, my friend Katie recommended this one and I am glad she did.  These stuffed squash were not only lovely to look at but delicious to eat.  My boys loved all the ingredients in them and I thought they were rather easy to make.  (Especially considering how pretty they looked when they were done!)  It was the perfect Fall meal! 


    Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Recipe adapted from www.iowagirleats.com

    2 acorn squash

    Extra virgin olive oil
    salt & pepper
    4 sausage links (I used chicken and apple sausage)
    2 small apples, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ cubes
    2 cups chicken broth, divided
    1-6 oz box Stove Top stuffing

    Instructions

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pierce acorn squash several times with a knife, then place on a microwave-safe plate and cook for 2 minutes. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, then microwave for 1 additional minute.
    Lay squash halves on a baking sheet, skin side down, then brush with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the squash goes in easily.

    Meanwhile, if the sausage you bought is already cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces.  If not, remove from casing and brown in a skillet.

    Combine apples and sausage in a skillet and cook until hot and apples cook down a bit.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, and continue to cook until apples are soft but not mushy, ~3-4 more minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup chicken broth to keep apples from burning.

    In a separate saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups chicken broth to a boil. Pour in the box of stuffing, stir, then place a lid on top and turn the heat off. Allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes, then fluff stuffing with a fork.
    Combine stuffing with sausage & apple mixture then mound onto cooked acorn squash halves. Place under the broiler until stuffing is golden brown on top.

    Husband Rating: 6 out of 10

    Delicious Vegan Chili

    My husband had the guys from his fantasy football league over to watch the Vikings game and have some chili, an owner’s event if you will. One of the “owners” is a vegan and when I heard that he was coming, I was excited at the challenge of making a vegan version of my chili for him to eat as well.  I think I liked the vegan version as much as, if not more than, my meat chili recipe.  It was yummy!  And, some of the other “owners” liked it as well!  I’d say the recipe was a success!  (BTW – my “meat” chili recipe will also soon be posted.)


    Delicious Vegan Chili

    Recipe adapted from www.ohsheglows.com

    1 tbsp oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 green peppers, chopped
    1 sweet onion, chopped
    3 carrots, chopped
    1 tbsp cumin
    3 tbsp chili powder
    pinch sea salt
    pinch cayenne
    1 can each: black beans, white kidney beans, red kidney beans (rinsed) (I used 1 large mixed can)
    1 can diced tomatoes with juice
    2 tsp oregano
    1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    1-2 c. vegetable broth
    2 tbsp chia seeds (see Food for Thought)

    Instructions:

    In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, peppers, onion, and carrots.  Saute until veggies are soft, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes on low to medium heat.  Add additional vegetable broth as needed if the chili seems dry. (The chia seeds absorb a lot of the moisture!)

    Food for Thought:

    For those of you who don’t know about Chia Seeds, I highly recommend you look into learning more about this powerful little superfood!  Chia seeds (yes, the same ones that grow chia pets) are black or white and are said to have protein, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, iron, and large amounts of omega 3 and omega 6.  They are a whole grain, a soluble fiber, keep you hydrated, give you energy, and in my opinion, keep you fuller longer.  Because they keep you fuller longer, they also are said to be a dieter’s dream, helping helping you consume less calories yet feel full.

    I eat a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds every day with my breakfast.  I scoop a little on my cereal, into my greek yogurt, or into my oatmeal.  They are great in smoothies, tossed into any soup or chili you make, and can be added to many recipes.  Becuase they are flavorless and look a bit like a poppy seed, my kids don’t seem to notice them at all. 

    For runners, you can use chia seeds to make your own energy gel as well.  They absorb 9 times their weight in water.  I combined 1/3 c. seeds with 2 c. water and soaked it for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the chia seeds fully hydrate, they create a gel.  I drink that about an hour or so before a long run and feel great throughout my run.  I have a lot of energy and need less water as I go.  When I recently did my 10 mile race (a first for me) I did the chia seed gel before hand and felt great throughout the entire race, needing very little water along the way!  It was great! 

    I have not been paid in Chia Seeds to write this nor have I been reimbursed by any Chia Seed manufacture to endorse them.  🙂  I do not have a doctorate in Chia Seed science and am not a Chia nutritionist.  I simply believe in their health value from the research I have found and have seen the positive results of including them in my diet over the last year.  I would encourage you to research it yourself if you are curious.

    Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage

    I saw a package of pumpkin gnocchi at Target and thought, why not?  Let’s try it!  I love gnocchi, I love food with pumpkin in it.  So, let’s see what we can make with it.  Yea, this was a delicious meal! 

    Sage is not an herb I use often… if ever.  I will now!  Yum!  We served it with some chicken breasts I cooked up with a little of the same butter and sage flavoring and had some fresh green beans on the side.  But, the true star of this meal was the gnocchi! 

     
    Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage
     
    1 package pre-made pumpkin gnocchi (I got mine at Target)
    3 Tbsp. butter
    1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
    5-6 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
     
    Instructions:
     
    Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Cook gnocchi for 2-3 minutes or until they begin to float.  Remove from water and set aside.
     
    In a large saucepan, heat butter until it begins to brown.  Add in onions and sage and cook until onions begin to caramelize (about 6-7 minutes). 
     
    Place cooked gnocchi to the onions in a single layer and brown about 2-2 1/2 minutes per side until lightly crispy. 
     
    Husband Rating: 8 out of 10
    

    Pesto Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

    Mmmmm, why go out to eat at a restaurant when we can have delicious meals like this at home?  This turned out amazing.  I got the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, www.fortheloveofcooking.net.  I highly recommend checking out her blog if you have time.  Her recipes always turn out delicious!  This meal was amazing and quite easy to do.  We will definitely be making this one again.  We served it with a caprese salad on the side.  Yummy!

    Pesto Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

    6 chicken breasts
    1 c. basil pesto
    2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
    1 Tbsp. olive oil
    pinch salt
    tomatoes, sliced
    sliced havarti cheese
    sesame buns
    mayonaise (optional)
    extra basil pesto (optional)

    Instructions:

    Place chicken breasts in a large freezer bag and seal.  Pound with a kitchen mallet (or in my case because I don’t have one, I use my rolling pin) until thin.  Add the pesto to your bag and marinate for 4-6 hours. 

    In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and a little bit of salt and saute for about 15 minutes or until carmelized. 

    Heat a grill to medium high heat. Remove chicken breasts from the bag and grill for about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.  Add a slice of havarti to each chicken breast and continue cooking an additional 30 seconds until cheese starts to melt. 

    Toast buns (spread a bit of olive oil or butter on the buns if you are planning on toasting them on the grill to prevent burning).  On each bun, place on chicken breast, some onions, and a slice of tomato.  If you like, also spread some mayonaise and extra pesto on the bun.  We used mayo but not pesto and it was delicious! 

    Husband Rating: 9 out of 10

    Food for Thought: This would be easy to have in the freezer ahead of time.  Simply pound the chicken and then add the pesto and freeze.  If you wanted to make this meal in the winter when the grill wasn’t available, I would use a grilling pan on the stove or try baking the chicken as I am sure it would turn out delicious that way too.  It was definitely a delicious meal we plan to make again and often!

    Harvest Quinoa Chicken Soup

    Well, my little guys have come down with Fall colds and whenever they get sick, I get motivated to make warm, healthy meals chock full of vitamins to get them back on the healthy track.  I found a recipe that I modified based on what I had around the house and came up with a yummy, healthy, warm-you-to-the-middle soup!  I could almost see the germs running from our house as we ate this for dinner! 🙂

    Harvest Quinoa Chicken Soup

    Recipe adapted from www.iowagirleats.com

    1 Tbsp olive oil

    2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    1 small onion, chopped
    salt & pepper
    4 cups torn kale
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    8 cups chicken broth
    1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley
    1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    1 bay leaf
    1 rotisserie chicken, cleaned of bones and skin and shredded
    1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes (2 cups)
    2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
    2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    Instructions
    Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrot, and onion, season with salt and pepper, then saute until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Add kale and garlic, season with more salt and pepper, then saute for 2 more minutes. Add 8 cups chicken broth, white beans, parsley, dried thyme, bay leaf, and then bring to a boil.
    Add sweet potato, russet potato, and quinoa to boiling broth. Place a lid on top, lower heat to medium, then cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and quinoa is cooked.
    Add shredded chicken to the soup, remove bay leaf, then add Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
    Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
    Tip: Use additional chicken broth when reheating soup, as quinoa will absorb much of the broth as it cools.
    Husband Rating: 7 out of 10

    Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Chicken Sandwich

    Apparently I am on a hot sandwich kick.  My little sister, who is living with us right now, made the comment that she hadn’t thought of sandwiches for dinner before.  But, after the last few meals we’ve had she has begun to rethink that. 

    This hot sandwich recipe comes from my friend Katie who is another great cook and does a lot of similar style cooking as mine.  I loved the recipe before I even got to cook it.  It has all the makings of a great meal – mozzarella, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, basil, roasted red peppers… Yum!  Put it all together and you have a delicious, warm sandwich that makes a great meal. 

    Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Chicken Sandwich

    1 loaf ciabatta bread
    2 chicken breast
    salt/pepper
    garlic powder (approx. 1/2 tsp.)
    1 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 small jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
    2-3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste
    2-3 Tbsp. basil pesto
    fresh mozzarella
    handful fresh basil leaves

    Instructions:

    In a skillet, heat olive oil.  Season chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to your taste preferences.  Cook them over medium high heat until no longer pink in the middle, approximately 4-6 minutes per side.  Set aside.

    Cut ciabatta loaf in half the long way. 

    Combine tomato paste and pesto in a bowl.  Use more or less of each depending on your taste preferences.  Spread it on one side of the bread. On the other side of the bread, lay the roasted red peppers in a single layer.  Brush olive oil onto the bread in the spaces between the red peppers so the bread doesn’t burn.

    Slice the chicken thinly or shred.  Lay chicken on top of pesto spread.  Add fresh mozzarella to the top of the chicken.  Bake sandwich open in the oven at 375 for 10 – 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and sandwich is hot. 

    Remove from oven.  Add basil leaves and put the two halves of the sandwich together.  Slice, serve, enjoy!

    Husband Rating: 7 out of 10 (Which is incredibly high because my husband does not like sun dried tomatoes!)

    Food for Thought: I did see in the store a sun dried tomato pesto already mixed up if you want to skip one step.  However, by mixing it up yourself, you can favor your flavor preferences.  Mine is definitely more heavy on the basil pesto side, especially because my husband doesn’t like the sun dried tomatoes.  Either one works just fine!

    Caprese Lasagna with Spicy Turkey Sausage

    Love the recipes I am getting from this blog, www.iowagirleats.com.  This one was delicious too!  It’s a take on lasagna using a white sauce and spicy sausage that was simply delicious!  It was lighter than traditional lasagna making it more appetizing during the warm fall weather we’ve been having.  The hot Italian sausage was a bit spicy for the boys so I might use something a little milder next time but I sure loved it!  Yum!

     

    Caprese Lasagna with Spicy Turkey Sausage

    Recipe adapted from www.iowagirleats.com

    1 pkg. oven ready lasagna noodles
    extra virgin olive oil
    1 pkg. hot turkey Italian sausage (could use sweet – I might next time for the boys’ sake)
    2 Tablespoons butter
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    3 Tablespoons flour
    1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    1 1/2 cups milk
    salt & pepper
    5-6 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
    3/4 cup torn fresh basil
    1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

    Instructions:

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Squeeze sausage out of its casing and cook while breaking up until no longer pink. Remove to a plate and set aside.

    In the same skillet, melt butter, then add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour, then whisk to combine and cook for 30 more seconds.

    Slowly pour in chicken broth a few tablespoons at a time, whisking to break up any lumps. Continue pouring and whisking until mixture is smooth. Pour in milk and whisk to combine. Season with salt & pepper.  Continue stirring until thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

    Spray the bottom and sides of a 9Ă—13″ baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour 1/4 cup sauce into the bottom, then spread evenly with a spatula. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles.  Then top with 1/3 of the tomatoes, 1/4 cup torn basil, 1/3 of the cooked turkey sausage, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat 2 more times, for a total of three layers.

    Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes, or until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbly. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Husband Rating: I don’t think we got one for this meal but I will ask him next time because there will definitely be a next time for this meal!

    Food for Thought: I think that adding some chopped spinach would be really a nice addition to this dish.  I am going to try that as well as turning down the heat on the Italian sausage for next time.  Enjoy!

    You could also do this for the freezer, cooking it all up and before baking it cover it well and stick it in the freezer.  Allow to thaw in the fridge and then cook up according to instructions. 

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