Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Zingy Lasagna

Okay, this “Mexican” lasagna has got to the be the easiest lasagna I have ever made! The noodles did not need to pre-boil, there is no cheese filling, no saute-ing onions, nor endless layering upon layering. And actually, my kitchen didn’t get too thrashed during the cooking process- you know what I mean, tons of pots, pans and dishes scattered throughout.....Nope, it was easy-peasy! Please don’t confuse easy, however, with bland or simple tasting....no, no, no!! This was full of flavor, very hearty and satisfying! A great alternative to your run-of-the-mill lasagna!! Please make note that it requires at good 90 minutes to cook and 10 - 15 minutes to set up....so, plan accordingly!!

Thank you to my friend, Gina, who recently gave me a copy of the cookbook, A Thyme to Celebrate, from whence this recipe comes! I can’t wait to try more dishes from this book!

3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound lean ground beef
2  15oz cans of refried beans
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp garlic powder
12 uncooked lasagna noodles (do NOT use the “no boil” kind)
2 1/2 cups salsa
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 6 oz can of sliced black olives
2 cups sour cream
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350F

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, cook for 5 minutes or until brown, stirring until crumbly (I really work the meat so it’s very finely crumbled). Drain fat, if any. Add the beans, oregano, cumin and garlic powder. Mix well. Simply soak the lasagna noodles in room temperature water in a large soup pot for 5 minutes.

Coat a 9X13 inch baking dish with 1 Tbl olive oil. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread one half of the ground beef mixture over the noodles. Add another 1/3 of the noodles, then add remaining half of the ground beef mixture. Top with the remaining noodles.

Combine salsa and water. Pour over the top of the layers. Okay, one thing to mention- the lasagna is going to look like watery soup at this point!!! Don’t panic! I admit it, I did a little. But, don’t fret because the water will cook all those uncooked noodles while it bakes. When you take the foil off after it’s finished, I promise you will be happy with what you see!! Okay, back to the recipe.....bake, COVERED with foil, for 90 minutes.

Mix the green onions, olives, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack in a bowl. When the lasagna has finished cooking, remove it from the oven and carefully uncover. Evenly spread the sour cream mixture on top. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Let the lasagna set-up for AT LEAST 10 minutes before cutting into it! I like to let it sit for 15 minutes- this gives me a nice clean slice of lasagna and not a sloppy floppy mess of noodles and meat on a plate!  Serve with additional salsa, chips and guacamole! Enjoy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shannon's Pumpkin Spice Dip

This pumpkin dip recipe comes from my neighbor, Shannon. It is so delicious and completely irresistible! She has made it for me twice now and both times I have sneaked into the fridge when no one was around and devoured it.  Of course, I shared a little of it, too. My kids absolutely love it! The ginger snaps served with the dip are THE perfect accompaniment....although, you could easily use graham cracker cookies or even apples if you do not like ginger snaps. The dip is simple to make and is the perfect appetizer or dessert to serve during the holiday season! Enjoy!

1 8oz block cream cheese, softened
1 15oz can of pumpkin
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tub cool whip, thawed
1/4 tsp cinnamon  
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Ginger Snap cookies (or graham cookies or apples)

Combine softened cream cheese and confectioners sugar. Add pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in tub of cool whip.

Serve as a dip with spiced wafer cookies.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Avalanche Bars

I just whipped up these tasty Rice Krispie Treat take-offs this afternoon! The recipe was super easy, no baking required and they are really quite yummy! My three year old even helped out (lately she has taken a huge interest in helping me bake and cook- hence the little apron she's wearing in the photo below....I have to admit, I'm more than excited about this and I foresee many baking/bonding experiences in our future!!!). The recipe comes from the blog Cookies & Cups. Enjoy!

12 oz bag of White Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (as always, I only had extra crunchy in my cabinet...worked great!)
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips + 2 Tbsp for garnish.
Lightly grease a 9x9 pan (I only had an 8X8 pan and it worked fine!)

In microwave-safe bowl pour in white chips and heat on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir and continue in 30 second increments until chips are melted. Please make sure that you stir after every 30 seconds. I have had issues with white chips before- if they get too hot, they can clump and get hard. No bueno!

Combine the peanut butter with the melted chips and stir well. Add the Krispies.

Let cool approx 15 – 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so to help cool.

Add the marshmallows and the mini chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly, pressing lightly with the back of your spoon or a piece of parchment paper. Do not compact too much, otherwise they will get hard.

Press the remaining chocolate chips into the top for garnish. I put mine in the fridge for a 1/2 hour to help them cool and set.

When the bars are completely cooled cut into squares.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Apple & Cheddar Penne Pie

Apple & Cheddar Penne Pie?! Yeah, that's just a really fancy way of saying saying mac & cheese on steroids.  This is good, friends! This is very very good! Like you-could-serve-this-at-your-Thanksgiving-meal good......and maybe you should! I'm actually considering it! The apples in this "pie" give it a subtle sweetness that pairs so well with the savory cheddar and thyme. This Better Homes and Gardens dish will be made again and again in my house! I hope it will in yours, too!! Enjoy!

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs (I used plain bread crumbs)
3 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
12 ounces dried penne pasta (3 1/2 cups)
2 cups chopped apples (2 to 3 medium)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup apple cider
6 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut up
1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the softened butter. Sprinkle sides of pan with 1/3 cup of the panko to coat; set aside. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon softened butter. Stir the remaining 1/3 cup panko and 1 teaspoon of the thyme into melted butter; set aside.

2. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than directed by package directions; drain. Return pasta to pan; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook apples and onion in the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until tender. Add flour, salt, and pepper to saucepan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk and apple cider. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Add cheeses and the remaining 2 teaspoons of thyme; stir until cheese melts.

4. Add sauce mixture to pasta; stir to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved panko mixture.

5. Bake, uncovered about 40 minutes or until edges are bubbly. Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Using a serrated knife, cut pie into eight wedges. If desired, top with fresh thyme sprigs. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Greek Salad - THE Best Recipe EVER!

I recently came across the most wonderful blog called The Cafe Sucre Farine. This lady's recipes are marvelous!! Truly truly! I blogged her Sweet Balsamic Salad Dressing last week. You must try it! And now I am blogging yet another one of her salads. Please believe me when I tell you this: the recipes below are the very best Greek salad & salad dressing I have ever had- hands down! This could be served in ANY restaurant in the country and I guarantee you will would proclaim, "This is the best Greek salad I've ever had!" My husband and I feasted in pure bliss on this delectable dish earlier this week...and I have been craving it ever since! I think I'll always put cooked potatoes in my salads from now on! HA! Please give it a try! And please check out her yummy blog!

*Note: My husband doesn't like raw red onion nor does he like olives. I put everything in my salad and simply omitted his dislikes. Feel free to add and omit what you do and don't like. 

**Note: I only made half the dressing & salad for the two of us...and I STILL had dressing to spare.

For the Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
For the Salad
8 cups romaine lettuce
3 plum tomatoes, cut in wedges (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 English cucumber, sliced or 1 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow or red bell pepper (seeded and cut into rings or sliced) 
3/4 cup cannellini beans 
3/4 cup tiny potatoes cooked till tender and cooled (if you don't have tiny potatoes just diced up a large potato and boil till tender- this took about 12 minutes for the potatoes to be fork tender)
3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled (or to taste)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (this was my own addition)
1. Place all salad dressing ingredient in a glass jar. Cover and shake well. 
3. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours before using to blend flavors.
3. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over to coat lightly; toss to combine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Monster Cookies

Oh Boy! These are EVERY bit at good as they good as they look- and maybe even better!!! A big thank you to the blog Lemon Sugar for this super yummy PB cookie recipe that I copied verbatim!! If you are a peanut butter lover, make these stat!
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Reese's Pieces mini candies, 1 bag (I couldn't find mini Reese's...so, I used regular...but, I ran short...so, if you can only find regular, you might need a bag and a half)
Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla, and beat to combine.

Slowly add dry ingredients, and beat just until combined.  Don't over beat at this stage.  Stir in oats, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.  Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Pour Reese's Pieces candies onto a plate or into a flat bowl.

Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 Tablespoons) drop cookie dough into the bowl of candies. Gently use your hand to press the dough down into the cookies and flatten the dough into a disc, then transfer to cookie sheet.  Bake, six at a time, for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to darken. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes.  If you skip this step, the cookies might break when you transfer them to a cooling rack.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving. Makes 16 - 18 cookies.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sweet Balsamic Salad Dressing

Oh merciful heavens, I think I just found my new go-to salad dressing! This recipe comes from the blog Cafe Sucre Farine. It was so amazingly yummy I wanted to lick the plate! This recipe makes a large amount. You could easily 1/2 it or even 1/4 it. But, I'm glad I made the whole thing because now I will be finding any excuse I can in the coming week to make myself a salad!!

In case you are wondering what's in the salad pictured, it's romaine, avocado, cranberries and sugared sliced almonds. But, really, in my opinion,  this dressing will compliment any salad combo! Enjoy!

⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 ½ tablespoons sesame seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1 tablespoon minced sweet onion
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup vegetable oii
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients in a medium sized tupperware container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Shake each time before using.