Italian

Zucchini Bruschetta

I like this dinner because it checks all the boxes for good for you and good flavor.  I don’t think I could ever be a complete vegetarian but I could stick with just having an occassional burger or steak.  This is a fast and easy weeknight dinner that requires just a little of everything and a LOT of zucchini.

Tex Mex Ravioli…the good old days

I am into full January swing now, cleaning out closets, organizing everything and eating healthy again.  I long for the good old days of November and December when I could eat what I wanted without remorse because, “it’s the holidays!”  Alas…I’ll feel better once this becomes routine.  Its the right thing to do and I’ll feel better and energized for gardening.

In the meantime, I do have my pictures to ramble through now that I am blogging.  Even though I posted a million cookie recipes I did actually cook dinner those months too.  So, now I can share with you and live through the memories of that good food!

I have a not so secret addiction to new kitchen gadgets and while I was out doing my Christmas shopping, I occasionally came across a deal to good to pass up.  Such was the case with my new ravioli stamp.  It was on sale at Sur La Table.  You know they have good stuff there.  So, while I was picking up gifts this fell into my basket.  I had to get home and try it out. Silly thing that I am, I didn’t buy a pasta roller though.  Never you worry, Tyler Florence pasta recipe rolled out great with just a rolling-pin.  I really didn’t want Italian though.  I was more in the mood for enchiladas….and…  VOILA!  Tex Mex Ravioli.  It was delicious!  Hope you enjoy it.

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Spicy Lasagna for Shine Supper Club

Spicy Lasagna – Fall comfort food for a crowd at its best!

I can’t remember exactly what spurred me on to make lasagna on this beautiful fall day.  I think it had something to do with a list of upcoming blog ideas and cooler weather.  But I did it anyway.  I weighed this on the scale and it totaled 16 pounds including the casserole dish (which is large).  Krista gave me this for Mother’s Day.  Isn’t that sweet?

Now I need to take some to Amy and her family and put some in the freezer for comfort food this winter.  I can smell it baking and it smells wonderful.  The fennel and Italian herbs make the whole house smell good.  I have the doors open.  I may even have a neighbor drop by to check it out.

I made the sauce the day before in the traditional spaghetti sauce pot.  It is always better if it can cool and be reheated.  Overnight is best.

I had to have about 3 uninterrupted hours to make it up and let it bake.  That is what I did with my Sunday afternoon.  I also washed up the dishes and cleaned every surface that was spotted with sauce.  Counter tops, stove and floor.  Where are my children when I need them?  They always say I use every pot and pan in the kitchen to prepare dinner.  Maybe they were right?

Lasagna is a tradition for Christmas Eve dinner for my family, but it feeds a crowd anytime.  It can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated. Great to portion it out and put it away for a cold and busy winter day.

This is a tried and true recipe that everyone loves.  Hope you do too.

 Lasagna

  • Salt for the water
  • 1 1/2 (16-ounce) boxes lasagna noodles
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or remove the casing if in links
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (12-ounce) package mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons, divided
  • 1 recipe Tumbleweed Contessa’s Spicy Spaghetti Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 pound grated mozzarella

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the lasagna noodles until they are soft and pliable but not limp, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the pasta from the boiling water and immerse in an ice bath, remove and lay flat on a sheet tray to cool. I usually put a little olive oil on the sheet pan to keep it from sticking.

Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown and crumbly. Sprinkle in a pinch of red chile flakes.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

 

 

Remove the fat from the pan and add olive oil along with 2 cloves of smashed garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Bring the pan to medium-high heat. When the garlic becomes golden and very aromatic, remove it from the heat and discard. Add the mushrooms and season with salt. Cook the mushrooms until they are soft, wilted and dark brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add about 6 basil leaves chopped or torn after turning off the heat.  Remove from pan and set aside.

 

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 the Parmesan, the eggs, and the remaining fresh basil. Add salt and mix to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch or deep-dish baking dish, add a couple ladles of sauce and spread out in an even layer. Arrange a layer of the lasagna noodles to completely cover the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta.  (I had to use my fingers to spread it evenly.) Place a layer of pasta going in the other direction as the first layer (this makes it easier to serve). Spread a light layer of sauce on the pasta and sprinkle 1/3 of the sausage over the sauce, repeat this process with 1/3 of the mushrooms. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and some of the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano over the veggies. Repeat these layers until all the ingredients have been used up or the pan is full. The final layer should be a layer of pasta on top covered with sauce and sprinkled with mozzarella and Parmigiano. Cover tightly with foil.

Place the lasagna on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the lasagna is hot and bubbly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.  Note: It is best to make and bake the lasagna the day before. Heat it up again before slicing.

This sauce recipe is the same recipe I use for spaghetti, except I add sausage or beef (or chicken).  A meatless meal was not acceptable in my house for my husband.

Spicy Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can Cento Tomatoes (puree)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes +1 can of water
  • 1 can tomato paste + 1 can of water
  • 2 packages McCormick Thick and Spicy dry spaghetti sauce mix
  • ½ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • 4 tablespoons Italian dried seasoning herb mix (Tones)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon garlic grains or 1 fresh clove of garlic finely minced
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

An additional can of water may be added, but this must be a thick sauce.

In a heavy-bottomed iron Dutch oven warm the olive oil and add the remaining ingredients.  Stir and bring to a low simmer.  Cover and cook about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to be sure the dried herbs don’t stick to the bottom.  Remove the lid and let cool.  Store in the refrigerator at least overnight before using.  It is ok to use it immediately, but the flavors develop and it is best left at least overnight in the refrigerator.

I’ve just opened the 2012 Cookie Exchange.  Take a look and add your recipe into the mix:

Cookies 2012

 

This will be the perfect recipe for the Shine Supper Club.  I can’t wait to share and see what everyone else is making.  Since it is sooooo big, I am also going to take it to:
Down Home Blog Hop The Mandatory MoochBarns and NoodlesFreedom Fridays

Thursday Favorite Things mop it up mondays

Friday Night Fall Fun Crafts and Baking!

I am playing with my grand girls tonight.  We are baking and doing arts and crafts.  Check out this cool book I found for all kinds of autumn crafts.

Click here to visit Jean Vant Hul’s site.

Mixologists or Bakers?

What did we do tonight? We made cookie dough, pumpkin bars and pizza cups.  Maddie requested plain cookies without those chocolate things.  I asked her if she meant chocolate chips.  She wrinkled her nose and said “Yes, I don’t like those.”   “So you want just plain sugar cookie dough?”  “Yes,” she answered, “but don’t bake them.”  We mixed up plain sugar cookie dough to eat with the fingers!  In case you haven’t noticed mom, it is in your refrigerator.  Maddie and Cameron know it is there.

Next we made some Pumpkin Bars for Cameron.  I discovered she liked pumpkin muffins while we were eating lunch at the Greenery for her birthday.  She loved the mixing and putting them in the baking pan.  She wasn’t very patient while they baked.  She was ready to move on.  And she didn’t try one either.

That evening for dinner I let them make Pizza Cups.  Those were a success!  We rolled the dough, formed them in the mini muffin pans with the Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper, put on the jarred pizza sauce, mini pepperonis and cheese.  They were even happy to wait to let them bake and we ate dinner.  They were good!  Success!

So I think my granddaughters have moved to “Mixologists” on their way to bakers.  I’m working on them.

 

 

As you may have noticed Maddie is now getting ready for Halloween as Elvira in the wig while she eats the pepperonis rather than put them on the pizzas!

Andiamo! Italy

Olympics IV

Ciao,

We continue with our 2012 Olympic food challenge in Italy.  I like (love) Italian food.  Whenever I can’t think of anything to eat, Italian is the second thing that comes to mind – Mexican food being the first.  On my bucket list is a trip to Tuscany.  The scenery and the food and the art sound like my sort of place.  In the meantime I learn a little about Italy, listen to opera, and eat Italian when I can.  A new Italian Bistro is opening in my neighborhood.  I plan to sample a few dishes.  Red Mountain – can’t wait, Chef Jason.

A little bit of Olympic information concerning the Italians including their flag.  The flag is of course important to every nation.  Italy’s flag design was inspired by that of the French flag which was brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797. The colors are those of Milan – red and white – combined with the green uniform color of the Milanese civic guard.

They have earned 522 medals with 190 Gold, 158 Silver and 174 Bronze.  Italians are champion fencers but also pick up medals in cycling and athletics.

The cuisine in Italy as well as the wines are different from the North to the South and the east and west coasts.   Northern Italy has polenta in place of a lot of the pasta, fish is important in that region as well as beef, veal, and pork.   Southern cuisine focus is on pasta, tomatoes, rich dark green vegetables, cheese, lamb, seafood and herbs.

Where did lasagna originate?  Italy, of course. Not so!  Lasagna originated in Etheopia. The Italians attempted to take over Etheopia, but they failed.  The one thing they did take away from Etheopia and began to call their own is Lasagna.  True story!!  I’m glad to know that little bit of history because every Italian restaurant I eat in has lasagna on the menu and it is my favorite.  I love the Bechamel sauce,  cheeses and marinara sauce combo.  It is rich, spicy and so comforting.  These roll ups have all the flavor combinations I like, but are a quick meal to prepare and serve your family or a group watching the games.  Serve this with a huge bowl of salad and some Espresso ice cream with Amoretti cookies crumbled on the top is a great meal.

Lasagna Rolls

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground nutmeg

Lasagna Roll Filling:

  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mushrooms diced
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups or more marinara sauce – jar or homemade*
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the Bechamel sauce.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Whisk the ricotta, mushrooms, 1 cup Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.  Add 1/3 cup of the marinara sauce to this.  (I like a little of the taste of the sauce in the cheese.)

I used an egg slicer to slice the mushrooms.  I remove the stems and slice in one direction.  Then carefully holding the mushroom together I turn it 90 degrees and slice it the other direction.  A quick run of the knife through them is the perfect size for this roll.

 

Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a glass baking dish large enough to place the rolls.  (9X13”) Pour the Bechamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish.

Lay out the lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. (had to use my  fingers to get this spread evenly) Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the Bechamel sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture.

Spoon some marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

*I make my own sauce and it has been featured previously as Spicy Spaghetti Sauce   on this blog.  I use this for almost every red Italian sauce I cook.  I always have some in the freezer ready to use at an insane “craving Italian” moment.

Now make your own Italian dinner and celebrate the Olympics.

Buon appetito!

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Pizza Haters Pizza-Fresh from the Garden

Almost too pretty to eat....ALMOST!

A Guest Post from BigSister

Can you believe The Tumbleweed Contessa doesn’t like pizza?  How does one not like pizza?  I don’t understand.  Accordingly, I keep trying to invent combinations to trick her into liking something pizza like.  Let’s see if she likes this one.  She also claims not to like goat cheese but sometimes she likes things that have goat cheese as an ingredient.  Huh?  Welcome to my world of trying to please your mother.

The beets, garlic, rosemary and arugula are fresh from my garden.  I killed my squash.  Apparently I did not get the TWC’s squash growing genes.  I got most of the other ones from her though.

Roasted Beet and Garlic Pizza Topped with Arugula Salad

  • 2 individual pizza crusts (7 inches)
  • 1 large or 2 small fresh beets-tops removed
  • 1 head of garlic top removed + 4 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 medium ball of fresh mozzarella (in case I lose my nerve)
  • 4 ounces of crumbled goat cheese (in case I am feeling brave)
  • arugula (enough to make a salad for 2….I can’t ever figure leafy vegetable measurements)
  • 4 tablespoons of roasted walnuts
  • balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Roast the beets and garlic.  Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and put in a 375 degree oven for an hour to an hour and a half.  They are done when easily pierced with a knife.  As soon as they are cool enough to touch, peel them under running water to avoid stains in your kitchen and hands.  At the same time roast the garlic.  Slice the top off the head of garlic and place in center of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place alongside the beet(s) for about an hour.  Remove and let cool.  Leave the oven on for baking your pizza.

Slice the beets very thinly using a sharp knife or mandolin.  Holding the garlic head face down over a small bowl, squeeze the sides until the roasted cloves pop out into the bowl.  Using a fork, mash the garlic cloves to create a paste.

Make the sauce.  While the garlic and beets are roasting, create the sauce.  This is a simple infused olive oil.  Place ½ cup of olive oil, crushed red pepper, chopped rosemary plus the 4 cloves of garlic into a small pan.  Heat for 15 minutes over low heat.  Turn off heat and let sit until you are ready to assemble the pizza.

Make the toppings.  Wash and dry the arugula and tear into bite size pieces.  Also, while the garlic and beets are roasting, toast the walnuts.  Place the walnuts in a small pan over medium heat until you can smell them, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool.

To assemble:  Place the crust on a cookie sheet.  Remove the crushed garlic cloves from the oil and baste the crust generously with the oil.  Distribute the garlic paste and spread evenly between the two crusts.

Place the sliced beets on top evenly.  Sprinkle with goat cheese or lay thin slices of the mozzarella on top of the beets and crust.(As pictured below, I wanted to compare the tastes side by side.)  Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the goat cheese is puffy or the mozzarella is bubbly.   Sometimes I broil it for a minute at the end.

Remove pizzas from the oven and top with arugula and walnuts.  Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and, if you choose, leftover oil.  If not, save it for salad dressing some other time.  Serve with a knife and fork.

I am glad that I tested this before I tried it on mom.  Next time I would slice the beets even thinner (noted in the ingredients above).  The goat cheese half tasted great but so did the mozzarella so I’ll let you be the judge.  Think she’ll go for it?  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime…I am going to take this to It’s So Very Cheri’s Sunday Party.

Garden Feast Day 2-Portabello Mushroom “Pizza”

Almost too pretty to eat....ALMOST!

Today’s fresh vegetable feature is Portabello Mushroom Pizza.  What I love is picking almost all the stuff that goes with this meal from the garden.  I literally just bought the mozzarella cheese and mushrooms for dinner tonight.  You may be aware that I am a very low carb eater.  This dish makes me feel like I am eating lasagna and I don’t even miss the pasta.

I started by getting my already made pizza sauce from my first crop of tomatoes out of the freezer to defrost, then I grabbed my biggest bowl possible and headed out to the garden.  What a sight!  All of the dirt digging and bug fighting is worth it.  I picked lettuce, dill (I love a little fresh dill in my field greens), tomato and cucumber for a salad and grabbed some fresh basil for garnish.  I quickly snipped a few early okra and pulled up the last of my onions.  I did a thorough bug check on the tomato plants, then I hurried back to the air conditioning.  No way was I going back out into that heat today.  Grill pan it is!

Portabello Mushroom “Pizza”

  • 4 large portabello mushrooms
  • 8 Tablespoons of pizza sauce
  • Mozarella cheese 4 slices or 1 1/3 cups shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • ¼ cup torn basil for garnish

Pre-heat the grill pan over medium high heat and baste with olive oil.

Gently pull out the mushroom stems and scoop the gills from the inside of the mushroom using a spoon.  Slather the mushrooms with olive oil and place face down on the grill pan.  Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the mushrooms are starting to flatten as the moisture cooks off.  Flip and cook for another 5 minutes to lightly char the top of the mushroom.  Flip one more time for just a minute to cook off the last of the moisture.  Remove from grill pan and place top-side down on a baking sheet or broiler pan.

Assemble the “pizza” by topping each mushroom with two tablespoons of sauce and a slice or 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Then slip into the oven and broil until cheese is golden and bubbly.  Top with torn basil to garnish and serve.

 

Italy in a Meatball

Ever since I was young I have wanted to travel to Italy.  I don’t have any specific reason to go.  It just seems like that was the center of the universe in early days and the history, people, scenery and food are enchanting, enticing and romantic.  I think Tuscany would be a good place to start.  Well, it’s a dream.  We all need those.

When I can’t decide what I want to eat, that usually means Italian flavors are what will satisfy.  If I have these meatballs made up and in the freezer, I can pop out a few and have dinner done in a flash.  I usually have serving size portions of my homemade sauce ready too.  Of course the cheese is a good rich part of this meal. This with a nice salad and a glass of wine with the music playing softly in the background can take me away!  (Wasn’t that an ad for something else?)

I originally made this up to submit to Johnsonville for a contest.  However, as usual, I didn’t read the fine print and didn’t realize I couldn’t mention any other brand names nor show them off in the picture.  Needless to say my recipe didn’t get entered.  But it is still good and they missed out.

Italian Sausage Meatballs with Penne and Cheese

  • 1 pound Johnsonville Italian Sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 1/2 cup Kraft Parmesan Cheese (divided) (I used reduced fat cheese)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Bertolli olive oil
  • 24 ounce jar Bertolli Tomato & Basil sauce (or your favorite homemade)
  • 14.5 ounce dried penne pasta (I used Barilla Plus multi grain pasta)

Remove the sausage from the casings.  Add 1 egg (per pound), ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes and ½ teaspoon garlic granules.  I don’t feel the need to season the sausage too much.  It has a wonderful flavor with the fennel already.  Mix these well and make out into small meatballs.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes. 

At this point, I cool them and put them in a storage bag to use later.  I cook for one so an entire batch is way too much, but this is great to have on hand for a ready-made dinner after work.

Cook pasta as directed on package.  Drain well and put back in the warm pan.  Add 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon Bertolli olive oil and 1 cup Kraft Parmesan Low Fat Cheese.  Mix well.  Top each serving with the sauce of your choice and put 4 meatballs per serving on top.  Top off with more Kraft Parmesan Reduced Fat Cheese and a little fresh basil from the garden.

I served pan cooked egg plant drizzled with Bertoli olive oil with mine.

Delicioso!  Ciao!

The Week of Chicken

Begins with my favorite……

This smells as good cooking as it tastes. I almost had a buyer for my house in the valley (El Paso has mountains and a river) one night because this smelled so good. A realtor called and asked if she could bring someone by. A man was in from out of town who wanted to see the house. I said it was ok, but I was cooking dinner and wasn’t going to leave. The man came through to look at the house at dinner time. He was hungry! He talked to me for 5 minutes about this recipe, but he didn’t buy my house. This is a great winter night dinner served with rice and with a salad. I serve it over chopped broccoli cuts rather than rice or pasta as a lower carb dinner. Hank was a fan of rice and I’m sure the original recipe said to serve it with rice. This would not be Krista’s favorite. She isn’t a fan of cream soups. I’ve made this so long it took a while and one practice run to get all the ingredients written down. Enjoy this with a salad.

Chicken Florentine

  • 1 large chicken, cut up (or 2 legs, thighs, and breasts (halved)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper to season the flour to dredge chicken pieces in
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 soup can of milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • hot cooked rice or fettuccini

Cut up the chicken (or use chicken pieces of your choice). Dredge lightly in the flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika to taste. Brown the chicken pieces quickly on all sides in the oil, not cooking all the way through. Meanwhile whisk together the soups, milks, 1 tablespoon dry oregano, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Remove the chicken to a platter and drain the oil from the skillet*. Return the chicken to the skillet and pour the soup mixture over the chicken. Lower the heat to simmer and cover tightly to braise the chicken in the soup sauce. Turn the chicken once or twice to cook evenly and to prevent sticking in a skillet. Serve this over hot rice or noodles.

*I have an electric skillet. I think this is the only thing I make in it anymore. Of course, you can do this on the stove top or finish it up in the oven in a covered casserole.