Chicken Vegetable Lasagna

December 8, 2011

I have a recipe for this from the January issue of Paula Deen’s Magazine for chicken vegetable lasagna and I’ve been meaning to try it. My freezer has been looking kind of bare lately, so it’s definitely time to make and freeze some meals so I can just defrost on busy nights (of which there seem to be more and more lately). I made this but changed it up a bit to suit the ingredients I had in the house and to make it a bit easier. I found Paula’s instructions to be too complicated, so I simplified it. Here’s my modified recipe:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

12 baby carrots, chopped

1 8-ounce package of mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

1 tsp basil

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

15 ounces cottage cheese

2 cups grated Parmesan-Romano mix (this is now sold in my store in a pre-shredded package)

2 eggs

1 1/2 jars spaghetti sauce (24 ounce jars)

9 lasagna noodles

24 ounces mozzarella cheese

2 grilled chicken breasts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a 4 1/2 quart baking dish. Soak the noodles in hot water while you prepare the veggies. They will soften and you don’t need to boil them (thank you Ina Garten!).

Cook veggies in the oil until softened. Add salt, pepper, and basil.

Mix cottage cheese with eggs and Parmesan/romano cheese.

Mix chicken with half the mozzarella.

PLace 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the pan and top with 3 noodles. Layer sauce, veggies, cottage cheese, chicken, and mozzarella. Repeat for next two layers.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until bubbly. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing.

TeenMartha even liked this and said she was really surprised she did (she doesn’t like zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach). It was a big hit. And now I’ve got several meals worth in the freezer from the leftovers. I really liked this – traditional lasagna flavors, but with chicken and lots of veggies!


Pappardelle with Creamy Chicken Sauce

March 8, 2011

This recipe is from March Everyday Food.

1 tbsp olive oil

7 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

salt and pepper

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves

2 c heavy cream

1 lb pappardelle

Cook chicken with oil after seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for 7 minutes. Add onion and cook 6 min. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook about 15 minutes until it coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

Boil pappardelle. Reserve 1 cup cooking water. Add to sauce and toss pasta with sauce.

Ok, so that is Martha’s recipe. I used chicken breasts and substituted broccoli for half. I also added Parmesan cheese because pasta without cheese is like air without oxygen. This was good. I haven’t used pappardelle in a long time and I do like it. It definitely needed cheese though!


Mac and Cheese, Tweaked

January 27, 2011

I love mac and cheese, but sometimes I like it with a bit of a twist. Here’s my latest version, which I must confess is extra good if you serve it with some meatballs, but excellent by itself. And you will feel virtuous because it has lots of veggies.

2 slices wheat bread

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup fontina cheese

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese

1/4 cup cheddar cheese

1/2 lb whole wheat penne

1 1/2 cup frozen peas

2 oz fresh baby spinach

2 cups cooked cauliflower florets

2 tsp butter

2 tsp flour

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

 

Make the bread into breadcrumbs in the food processor. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400.

Begin cooking pasta, you want it done about the time the sauce below is, so make them simultaneously if you can. Just when it reaches doneness, add the vegetables to the pot and cook until they’re hot and the spinach is wilted (about a minute or two).

Mix cheeses in a bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour, cooking for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the cream and turn up to high, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occassionally, for about 1 minute. Add in 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.

Drain pasta and vegetables and place them on top of the cheeses in the bowl. Pour the cream sauce on top. Cover and let it sit for 3 minutes.

Pour into a greased 13×9 baking dish and cover with breadcrumb mix, pressing it down into the pasta. Bake at 400 for 7 minutes until the breadcrumbs are slightly browned.

I loved this. I am generally not a Gorgonzola fan, but the little bit in this recipe gives it a really interesting tang. This was creamy and cheesy but it had enough veggies in it to make it feel like a meal to me. Oh and if you just happen to have a bag of turkey meatballs already made in your freezer, adding one to your plate makes this supreme.

 


Baked Ziti

October 29, 2010

I’ve been looking at the cookbook: The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2nd edition. I got it from the library. I totally love the idea of this cookbook – they’ve tested many recipes to find the very best recipe for everything they include. I’m going to be making several things from this, but so far the best thing I’ve made was Baked Ziti. I know this is considered a staple for many Italians, but it’s not really something I’ve had very often, except at big banquets, where it is inevitably bad (mushy pasta and bland sauce) The recipes in this book start out with a description of the problems they see with regular preparations of the dishes and the various things they tried to remedy them. This explanation mentioned the mushy pasta and bland sauce complaints, so I was drawn in. And I HATE ricotta cheese, but this used cottage cheese. It sounded really good though, so I gave it a try.

Amazing. Out of this world, insanely good. I thought it was going to be very tomato-y but somehow the sauce gets absorbed or mixed in with the creamy/cheesy sauce. We nearly came to blows over the leftovers. Don’t tell anyone, but when I made this I separated it into two pans and froze one, so we’ll be having it again (no one in the family knows there is another pan of it in the freezer or they would demand I heat it up NOW).

This recipe gets HUGE points from me and I can see why it made it into the book. The only changes I made were that I used whole wheat penne instead of ziti and I ended up adding more sugar than the recipe says since I like my tomato sauce to be sweet. And I used dried basil.

1 lb whole milk or 1% cottage cheese

2 large eggs, beaten

3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated

salt

1 lb ziti

2 tbsp olive oil

5 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 28-oz can tomato sauce

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp oregano

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 tsp sugar

pepper

3/4 tsp cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream

8 oz while milk mozzarella, cubed

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of Parmesan in a bowl. Cook the pasta with salt, about 5-7 minutes until it begins to soften.

Heat oil and garlic in a skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant, 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano. Simmer until thickened about 10 min. Then stir in 1/2 cup of basil and sugar, season with salt and pepper.

Mix cornstarch and heavy cream and cook over medium heat until thick, 3-4 min. Remove from heat and add cottage cheese mix to it with 1 cup of tomato sauce and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add the pasta and stir.

Pour the pasta into a 13 x 9 dish and spread the rest of the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan on top. Cover with foil and bake 30 min. Remove foil and bake another 30 min. Cool for 20 min. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbsp basil.

I loved this and so did everyone in this house. Truly a fantastic recipe.

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A Juggling Act

May 11, 2010

One member of our household (who wishes not to be identified) has been experiencing intestinal pain for a while and I’ve finally convinced said person it is time to get serious about tracking down food causes. So we are investigating dairy and gluten as possible culprits. The plan is to take at least one full week to entirely eliminate each item (one at a time) from the diet, then add it back in and see what happens.

Sounds simple, but it’s so complicated to do. The gluten actually seems easier to me right now than the dairy, since there are small amounts of lactose in things that are made with small amounts of milk and butter, whereas it seems easier to just buy gluten free foods.

We’re trying to test the dairy this week. Sunday was Mother’s Day. Mr. MarthaAndMe made me a nice omelet for breakfast and I said I did not want to attempt to deal with the crowds in restaurants for dinner, so I cooked dinner. I really, desperately wanted fettucine with chicken and broccoli, but felt bad making it with the current dairy restriction for the certain family member (once we do determine what the cause of the problem is, I will make big changes to the entire family’s eating habits to encompass it, but am not going overboard until we figure it out).

I decided since it was Mother’s Day, I deserved to have what I wanted (especially since I was cooking it myself AND since no one had thought to actually run the dishwasher and put away all the breakfast dishes). But I was worried about the person in question, so I came up with a great compromise. I made some gemelli pasta (half a box). Once it was done, I scooped it out of the pasta water and put in some tiny broccoli florets and just let that sit a few minutes and it cooked completely. I cooked three chicken breasts in a pan with about half a jar of pesto. In a separate pan, I made a quick cream sauce with 1/8 stick butter, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream and some parmesan cheese to taste (with salt and pepper). I served all the ingredients separately so people could mix and match as they wanted. My thinking was the pesto was enough of a sauce for the pasta and the broccoli could be eaten separately (as could the noodles) for those who don’t like things mixed or with sauces. Those of us who wanted a regular cream sauce pasta dish mixed it all together.

This worked out quite well and was a pretty good solution to the dilemma, I thought. It also tasted really good! Of course, the person in question whined a bit about how he/she wanted the cream sauce, but we all survived.

If you have any tips for me on how to isolate a food allergy, I would really love to hear them. The initial testing isn’t getting us anywhere – no dairy for two days and the pain continues. But from what I’ve read we need to really give it at least a week. If we get nowhere, gluten is next on the list to eliminate. Wish us luck!


Pici of You-Know-Whatti

November 19, 2008

On Nov 7, Martha had a pasta show. I was totally excited since I love pasta, but I’ve never actually made the actual pasta itself. I had to make one of the recipes to give it a try and decided to go with Iacopo Falai’s pici (pronounced “pee-cee”. It looked pretty simple – I always thought pasta meant you had to have a pasta machine (which I do not), so I was excited that I didn’t need anything special to do this. This is a basic pasta that is hand rolled. No problemo I thought.

Ok, the first problem was the recipe called for “00” flour. On the show, Iacopo and Martha talked about it like it was a common thing. I’d never heard of it, but I’d never made pasta so I figured it was a no-brainer. My grocery store had nothing like this. They did have something called “pasta flour” which was a mix of semolina and durum. I bought that, figuring it was as close as I was going to get. I will admit up front that this may not have been the right thing for this recipe, but if not, gosh why didn’t they explain this was some specialty item you have to order online or whatever?

Ready to mix

Ready to mix

Ok, so I started mixing this up in a bowl with my hand mixer. You see, my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and I are estranged. Our relationship is in danger and I’ve even considered a divorce – selling it on Craigslist. It is so darn heavy that I almost always would just rather get out my little mixer. I also hate how it is impossible to get anything to go in the bowl when you have the beater down. I just find the whole thing inconvenient. So, I started with the hand mixer. I did as it said and added the water gradually. It did not come together at all. Not even a little bit. So I gave in and hauled out the Kitchen Aid monster.

Let me give you some background on my state of mind here before I go any further. I have been sick all week with a sinus infection – no voice, constant nose blowing, not sleeping at night – you get the picture. The day before, mini-Martha spilled an entire glass of lemonade on a laptop. Huge, expensive disaster. Mr. MarthaAndMe has been away almost every night this week at meetings and events. Like everyone else in America, we are worried about bills and money. It has simply been a miserable week from start to finish.

With that as background, please close your eyes and picture me setting up

Aftermath of the tornado

Aftermath of the tornado

the @#$*# Kitchen Aid, dumping my pasta mixture in and turning it on, only to discover that the bowl was not locked in properly and the mixer was not completely locked in the down position. I had a tornado of pasta mix swirling around me uncontrollably. I fully expected to land in some weird Italian Oz. I shut it off and cleaned it up with some colorful language. The dogs of course thought it was fantastic and began licking the floor in earnest (and if you read the Crabby Cake post, you know that meant they were also licking my feet which makes me NUTS).

Ok, so once I finally scraped the pasta off the walls and got it mixing and it wasn’t coming together at all. It was way too dry. So I added a little more water and a little more and so on until I doubled the amount of water in the recipe. Then it was together, sort of, but I was afraid to add any more. I mixed in the parsley¬† (the Kitchen Aid protested this and I think it could have burned out the motor had I not intervened – but would that have been a great loss?)¬† and then let it rest for 30 min as directed.

Can you feel the love?

Can you feel the love?

I came back all excited to roll this out as I saw them do on tv. Silly me to think it would be easy. You’re supposed to roll this on the counter or a board in the same way you used to make Play-Doh snakes as a kid. You want to get an 8 inch piece that is 1 inch in diameter. Martha and her guest chef made this look so easy and fun. Not for me. The dough simply shredded and crumbled when I rolled it. Total mess. I was able to get a few long pieces with much smushing it together, and then because I was

Not so pretty

Not so pretty

sweating like a hog and was ready to cry from frustration and exhaustion, I gave in and just shaped the rest into about 4 inch long pieces without really rolling it. It took forever. I think I was standing there about 45 min.

For the sauce, I shunned the sausage ragout (I hate sausage) in the recipe and made a fun little sauce with olive oil, stewed tomato, garlic, broccoli, scallions, spinach, mushrooms and herbs.

Finally, Mr. MarthaAndMe called to say he was on his way home from work, so I got the water boiling and dumped my sad looking pici in. The recipe says to cook it for about 4 minutes. I don’t know what galaxy that 4 minutes would be in, but in this galaxy it took 40 minutes for this to cook. Again, there I was, standing over a Martha dish, practically in tears, ready to drop dead from exhaustion.

Cooked "pasta"

Cooked

I didn’t think it looked very attractive at all when done. Mini-Martha thought it looked like worms, which is always what I want to hear as I’m sitting down to eat. I put the sauce on and we also sprinkled some bacon and parmesan cheese (also called nectar of the gods) on top.

The pasta tasted ok, but it was really heavy and doughy tasting. There was tons and tons left (this was supposed to feed 4 – we had 3 diners tonight and maybe ate 1/8 of it). I froze the rest. When I defrost it, I think I am going to cut it up into little gnocchi type pieces to make it more appetizing and manageable. My sauce was quite yummy.

So, I’m pretty disappointed with this recipe, especially after Martha raved

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

about she always ordered the pici at Iacopo’s restaurant and she just loves it. Maybe my flour was at fault – I don’t know. But the whole thing just did not go smoothly and I’m bummed.


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