Thursday, April 30, 2009

Italian at my house

Sometimes I think I should have been born Italian. Not because I am some great Italian cook or anything, just because I love really good Italian food. Dinner tonight was a personal challenge for me because I went up against three people who hate lasagna. Who hates lasagna seriously? I love lasagna but was determined to make a lasagna that they actually liked and would willingly eat again. This is also my first ever from scratch not cheating lasagna. By not cheating I mean I used the boil before you assemble noodles not the kind that cook in the oven...those never worked for me. I also never put very much time into my cheater lasagna because I knew I'd be the only one eating it. I'll tell you if they liked it or not at the end. So for starters:

Caprese Salad:

Loaf of good Ciabatta bread
Fresh mozzarella
Fresh vine ripe tomatoes
Fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Slice the bread and toast in oven until toasted the way you like it. Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella, a slice of tomato, a fresh basil leaf and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Top with a little course salt and fresh cracked pepper!

Yum! If you've never tried this, you really need to. It's delicious! It's normally also topped with a little bit of balsamic vinegar but I didn't have any. It's just as good without.

I don't know why, but I can only cook for an army after having so many people staying here. I can't cook normal portions anymore so this is a giant batch of lasagna..okay two 9x13 pans full. I made one with hamburger and one with ground boca (hamburger substitute).

Kelsie's awesome from scratch lasagna (with and without meat):

Half a giant softball size onion diced (or 1 or 2 small to medium onions)
Lots of garlic, depends on personal preference (I used two giant cloves and 3 regular cloves)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Dried oregano
Dried basil
3 large cans of diced tomatoes
1 large can of pureed tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil

Coat the bottom of a large saucepan (it has to hold all the tomatoes at well) with olive oil. Saute onions with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Mince the garlic and add to onions. (I use a microplane and just grate the garlic right over the pan. It's so much easier!). Throw in handful of fresh basil leaves, a few pinches of oregano (be careful, it's really strong) and about a tablespoon or so of dried basil. Add all the tomatoes and stir. Drizzle in a good amount of olive oil and let the sauce heat up stirring occasionally. Just let it bubble in the background while you do everything else.

Noodles that you boil yourself, not oven ready kind (unless you have more patience than me and will actually wait for them to finish cooking in the oven)
Really awesome fresh tomato sauce (see above)
1+ pounds of browned hamburger
2 packages of ground boca
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh parmesan cheese

Boil noodles according to box instructions. Brown hamburger. (I had one large pan with hamburger and one large pan with ground boca, you don't need both if your just making the regular meat) When your hamburger is finished browning in one pan and the boca is warmed up in the other, split the tomato sauce equally into both pans and stir. In your 9x13 pans put just enough sauce at the bottom so the noodles won't stick, cover the entire bottom with noodles. Cover with sauce, ricotta (kind of mix it into the sauce so it's not so strong), a good layer of mozzarella and then a layer of parmesan. Repeat layer. After second layer is finished top with noodles again, a little bit of sauce and then cover with a good amount of mozzarella and parmesan. Cover with tin foil and let bake until cheese is melted and bubbly! Let sit 15 minutes before you cut and serve, this will let the juices settle and it won't run all over the place.

Serve with an awesome salad and garlic bread! Yum!

Comments from the lasagna haters in my house:
Kacean: "You're Golden!" = You're good, this is really good and I'd eat it again
Dallan: (failed to tell me he even hated lasagna until after he ate it) Liked it and would eat it again
Mart: Liked it and would eat it again
Ber: (Not a lasagna hater) said it was better than Olive Garden (which she had for lunch the same day!)

I don't know how many of you know, but my sister in law Kacean recently graduated from the Western Culinary Institute where she was studying to be a pastry chef. She's currently working at the Marriot hoping to be hired on in the resturant as soon as it opens the end of May. She baked us a lemon chiffon cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert. It was really good and I don't really like cake all that much.

It says "Rawr means I love you in dinosaur".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli is seriously one of my favorite vegetable sides. You can also do this with fresh beets, cauliflower and asparagus! They are all really good.

Roasted Broccoli:
1-3 heads of broccoli (stems included)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350-450. If I'm in a hurry I'll cook it at 450 because it's faster. Cut up broccoli into pieces. I like to leave a good part of the stem on, it tastes good. Drizzle with olive oil, salt liberally and add fresh cracked pepper. Mix around. Roast in oven until done. I like mine to still have a little crunch. In a 450 oven that's probably 20-30 minutes, you just have to watch it. In a 350 oven probably 40-45 minutes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grilled chicken with potato wedges

Dinner tonight was one of my versions of grilled chicken with potato wedges.

Savory flame grilled chicken:

Chicken legs and thighs
Salt and pepper
Lemon pepper
Garlic pepper
Chili powder
Olive oil

Put legs and thighs in ziploc bag. Pour in some olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper, lots of garlic pepper, chili powder, tony's and a little bit of lemon pepper. Toss until well coated. Let sit for 10 minutes to overnight. Grill on open flame!

Garlic pepper potato wedges:

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Garlic Pepper

Cut potatoes into wedges and put in ziploc bag. Coat with oil. Add salt and LOTS of pepper. Add lots of garlic pepper and a little bit of tony's.
Bake at 425, 20 minutes on one side and then flip the potatoes over and cook another 20 minutes on the other side. They will be brown and crispy.

Shrimp and mixed vegetable salad

Shrimp and mixed vegetable salad:

4-5 Large white mushrooms
1 avocado
2-3 sweet peppers
1 tomato
1 carrot
1/2 an english cucumber
handful of shrimp
Salad greens

Chop veggies in bite size chunks and mix together until avocado starts to break up and coat everything. Season with salt and pepper.
In a frying pan add shrimp to a small amount of olive oil. Season with garlic pepper, Tony's, chili powder and a little bit of lemon pepper. Add to vegetables.

Top salad greens with vegetables and add your favorite dressing if you want it. It's good enough even without dressing. I like fresh ranch like Atwoods.

(These are both pictured before dressing was added)

Grilled Italian Salad

As a vegetarian, I've eaten my fair share of vegetables. Some people focus more on the meats they eat than on their vegetables and their vegetables are very very bland. I focus a lot on vegetables because who wants to eat bland vegetables for 8 years? Not me. Anyway, this is one of my favorite salads. It has also become quite a favorite in my household as well so I make it quite often.

Kelsie's awesomely amazing grilled Italian salad.

Romaine hearts
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil
Homemade Italian dressing (or a really really good store bought)

Take as many romaine hearts as you want and cut them in half. Drizzle olive oil over the inside and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Then drizzle with homemade Italian dressing. Put on grill and leave there until warm all the way through and until the lettuce has char marks on it. (over cooking it doesn't taste bad, but I like mine better crunchy). When the lettuce is done on both sides cut into pieces and toss with more dressing to taste. Yum!

Awesome sugar cookies

Kelsie's Extra Soft Sugar Cookies:

2 cups Butter Flavor Crisco
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup to 1 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine crisco and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix. Add sour cream. Mix. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add to wet mixture slowly until well blended.

Roll out using small amount of flour or powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Cut out shapes.
(Chill dough if it gets too warm or sticky while rolling out)
Bake around 5 minutes for small cookies
Bake around 7 minutes for large cookies


You're kind of on your own for this one, I am not great at frosting.
Here's a simple recipe if you want to try it.

Powdered sugar

Beat butter with a little bit of powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla 1 tsp at a time. Continue adding sugar, milk and vanilla until it is how you want it.

(My trick: I hate frosting that is too thick and too sweet, so I use part powdered sugar and part corn starch. That way the frosting is thick enough to spread but not overpoweringly sweet.)


Thanksgiving 2008 I decided I wanted to cook my very first Turkey with my favorite side dishes to have at my house for leftovers. After I had planned it all out, I ended up having more people over than I had originally anticipated so I ended up making two small turkeys.

Turkey #1: Rosemary brine smoked turkey
Dried rosemary
Whole peppercorns
Fresh garlic

Find a pot large enough to hold your turkey and fill with cold water. Add about a cup of salt (I use kosher course salt), a couple palm fulls of dried rosemary, some peppercorns (barely broken up) and fresh garlic. Soak turkey overnight. I covered my pot and turkey with a rag so that the top stayed wet as well. When the turkey was finished with it's brine bath, I had it smoked.

Turkey #2: Herb butter turkey
Herb butter:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1/4 cup fresh sage, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed very fine

Combine in a small bowl and mash with fork until completely mixed.

1 Tbsp pepper
2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
2 onions
2 ribs celery
2 carrots
3 rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch sage
1 bay leaf
Herb butter

Mix pepper, salt and poultry seasoning. Apply liberally inside turkey cavity. Put rosemary and sage in cavity. Put some root vegetables in cavity. Rub herb butter under the skin. Rub butter all over the turkey and spice liberally with the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning mix. Put on top of vegetables breast down so juices drain into breast meat. Add a little water to vegetables. Put a little foil on top of turkey.
Roast at 325, 18 minutes per pound.
165 is the finished temperature (take out 10 degrees early and let sit)
[Check thickest part of thigh for temperature]

Turn turkey over and remove foil for the last 20 or so minutes to let turkey brown on top.
About every half an hour I would baste the turkey with the herb butter broth.

Along with my turkey I made sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Yum!

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