Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lasagna Sundays

Tyler wanted to start Lasagna Sundays in our house. I guess now that Parker is here we are thinking more about traditions that he will remember. You know, like the Sunday roast of years past. Who can knock a tradition that involves cheese? Not I. To kick off our first Lasagna Sunday last week, I made this basic lasagna that tastes anything but basic (thank you goat cheese, you will always have a special place in my heart).

You could also switch it up and make baked ziti instead. Use ziti or even penne instead of lasagna noodles. Then you can be lazy with the layering too. I would probably add some water to the pasta sauce though to ensure there is enough liquid to cook the pasta without drying everything out. Also, a mix of half mozzarella and half provolone cheese is delicious in baked ziti (I would leave out the goat cheese if using provolone though). I made a huge pan of baked ziti this way for a Labour Day pot luck years ago. I had totally forgotten about it until somebody recently asked me for the recipe (Courtney- this is for you!).

adapted from Ina Garten via Lottie + Doof
Makes about 8 servings
  • 3 mild Italian pork sausages, or turkey sausages, casings removed
  • 1 jar good marinara sauce
  • 1 container (about 15 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 lb (250 g) mozzarella cheese, half of it grated and half of it thinly sliced
  • 16 lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using traditional lasagna noodles (not no-cook noodles), cook in a pot of boiling salted water until pliable- about 6 minutes or according to package directions. Lay noodles on a clean tea towel until ready to use.

Brown sausage in a frying pan over medium high heat, breaking into small pieces with a spatula while cooking. Pour off fat from pan. Reduce heat to medium, add tomato sauce to warm through.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta, egg, goat cheese, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and grated mozzarella cheese.

Spread tomato sauce in a thin layer in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Layer in this order with 4 noodles between each layer: meat sauce, cheese, meat sauce, cheese, ending with another layer of meat sauce and the remaining sliced mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through and cheese on top is starting to brown.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let your light shine in

Small things make me happy. Today, I took down the curtains in our living room/dining room that were here when we moved in a year ago. Now there is so much more light and I can see trees and sky. I'm sitting here at the table gazing out the window while I write. It makes me think of the line from a poem "Barn's burnt down... Now I can see the moon". Of course now it kind of feels like we just moved in and we haven't put up curtains yet, and Tyler will put them back up when he gets home until we get new ones (I'm thinking like this) cause that's how he is, but now I've seen the possibilities.

I also started a sourdough starter today, following the method on Serious Eats. Starter is what gives sourdough it's unique flavor and also takes the place of yeast in bread. As the author, Donna Currie, says "sourdough is as old as the pyramids". This is what they used before commercial yeast. I'm stoked for this project (it's super easy) and to have some sourdough bread in 10 days or so.

In the spirit of bread making, here is the recipe I've been using lately. Since I'm home with the baby I figured we could save money if I made bread once or twice a week. Plus it's fun. This dough is really easy to work with and it makes a nice crusty loaf, so it's perfect if you've never made bread before. Seriously try it. Baking bread is actually quite simple but it's so impressive. Yeast is not scary! Just make sure your liquid is only warm, not hot, so you don't kill the yeast. Otherwise, relax and just do it.

Adapted slightly from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast (traditional, although I've used quick rise and it's fine too)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (approx)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • cornmeal

In a large bowl, or in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast, let stand until frothy. Stir in milk and oil. Stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt. Add more flour if needed to form a shaggy, moist dough that isn't too sticky.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Or knead in your mixer for about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, place in a large greased bowl, turning dough to cover with oil (this helps it to rise as the top won't dry out). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Dust a rimless baking sheet, pizza peel, or the underside of a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide it in the oven. Punch down risen dough, form into a ball. Place on prepared pan; cover with a damp clean tea towel and let rise until not quite doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Spray loaf with water. With a sharp knife, cut three 1/2-inch deep intersecting slashes across the top of the loaf. Bake in the center of a preheated 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, spraying loaf 3 more times with water during this time. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F; bake 35 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack at least 1 hour before slicing.

I came up with a variation for a whole wheat loaf: Reduce all purpose flour to 1 1/2 cups plus up to 1/4 cup more if needed in the mixing stage and add 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

I am really proud of this recipe. I created the perfect pie dough by taking tips and bits from other recipes and combining them into this amazing, flaky dough. The filling is full flavoured but not full of fat because I used milk, not cream. Plus there are lots of veggies- I love it when I don't have to make a side dish with vegetables to ensure we are getting our 5-10 a day (more on the 5 end- does anybody really eat 10 servings of fruit and veg a day?). Chicken pot pie is exactly what I want to eat on snowy, cold days. Like today. Ugh.

Look how flaky!!!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies and Spicy Cheese Dip

Serves 4
Any mix of vegetables can be used. To freeze pot pies freeze pastry and filling separately. Thaw both in fridge overnight, then top with pastry and bake as directed.

  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp vodka*
  • 6-8 tbsp ice water
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, fresh or frozen
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups diced vegetables- I used mushrooms, carrots, celery, squash, peas
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped - reserve stems to flavor broth
  • salt and pepper
To make pastry: Combine flour, salt, and butter in a food processor using short pulses until butter resembles small marbles. With motor running, add vodka and 6 tbsp ice water. Add more water one tbsp at a time if needed just until dough forms a ball in the machine. Dump onto counter, pat into two discs, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make filling: Place chicken (no need to thaw if it is frozen), carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf, parley stems, and enough water to cover chicken in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces. Strain liquid, reserving broth.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions, garlic, vegetables, saute until just tender. Add white wine, cook until only a little liquid is left in the pan. Sprinkle in flour, stir for 2 minutes until flour is cooked out. Whisk in milk and 1 cup of reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened. Stir in cooked chicken and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour filling into 4 large ramekins or 6 smaller ramekins.

Roll out pastry to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out rounds big enough to cover ramekins with a bit of over-hang. Top ramekins with pastry, pressing around edges to seal. Cut a vent in top of pastry. Place ramekins on a baking tray in case they overflow in the oven. Bake 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is hot and bubbling around the edges.

*Every time I make pie dough Tyler asks why I'm drinking vodka. Every time I tell him it's for the dough. I'm more of a rum person. Adding vodka to pastry keeps it tender and flaky as gluten cannot form in alcohol.