January 28, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli Lasagna

I've been making lasagna for many years now, and I usually make a very traditional style lasagna, and enough to feed an army for a week. This recipe came from Sunset, I think. I've been on the lookout for a good vegetarian lasagna, and this one hit the mark. The broccoli - slightly roasted from the oven- provides a very hearty base for flavor and texture. Then with a few simple tricks with the cheese and sauce, you achieve the perfect balance of creaminess and veggieness. The icing on the cake is this lasagna is a cinch to make, and comes in a much more respectable size than most. I highly recommend it for a weeknight dinner (leftovers for lunch!) paired with a light caesar salad topped with easy homemade croutons.

What's in it
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 lb frozen broccoli florets, thawed, patted dry and chopped (next time I'll try fresh)
9 oz grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
spices: salt, pepper, oregano and basil
16 oz marinara sauce
1/2 C heavy cream
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

How it's made
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Reserve 1/4 C mozzarella and 1/4 C parmesan in a small dish. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, broccoli, remaining mozzarella and parmesan, spices. In a small bowl, combine cream and sauce.

In a 9x9 baking dish, spoon a thin layer of the sauce mixture on the bottom. Top with 2 noodles. Cover with 1/4 of remaining sauce, and 1/3 of remaining cheese mixture. Repeat 2 more times. Top with remaining 2 noodles and sauce. Sprinkle reserved mozzarella and parmesan on top. Oil a piece of foil and tightly cover pan. Bake 35-40 min, uncover and bake 10 min more or until golden on top. Let cool before serving.

January 25, 2011

Green Bean Casserole

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe! I thought it was on here, but alas, I was very much mistaken. For too long I depended on the back of the can of TJ's fried onion pieces, then they changed the recipe to incorporate a new TJ product, and I was SOL. So here I am, finally getting my act together to post one of my favorite, go-to recipes. Each time I make it gets better and better. I recently figured out adding cheese takes this green bean casserole to the next level - imagine melty cheese with crispy fried onion. It may invoke a memory, such as eating cheeseburgers and onion rings with a root beer at the Madison Bear Garden in Chico.

Growing up I had an aversion to almost all casseroles, so I totally feel ya if you're not buying the 'casseroles are yummy' story. But recently I realized if you just cut out the cans of weird soup concentrates or Hamburger Helper, and make it how you like it, casseroles can be life changing. I would like to try a tuna casserole soon, something I have scary memories of growing up. So go out on a limb, try this recipe, and love it.

What's in it

½ C butter or olive oil, more for pan

1 large onion, chopped

1 or 2 lbs mushrooms, stemmed and quartered

4 t coarse salt

1 t pepper

24 oz bag TJ’s frozen French green beans

½ C flour

2 c milk or almond breeze

1 C shredded cheese (I prefer cheddar)

1 can of TJ’s Gourmet Fried Onion pieces

How it's made

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your largest skillet over medium heat, melt a pat of butter. Add onion and sauté until it softens and caremelizes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Season with 2 t salt and ½ t pepper and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a pot with 1-2” of water on the bottom to boil, and place a steamer basket inside. When boiling, add frozen green beans, and steam until cooked, about 7-9 minutes.

Melt ½ C butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour, whisking constantly until mixture begins to turn golden, about two minutes. Pour in milk and continue whisking until mixture has thickened, about three minutes. Stir in remaining salt and pepper. Remove from heat and pour over beans and toss to combine with onion/mushroom mixture.

Butter a 9x13 pan and add spread out casserole mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake casserole, covered, until mixture is bubbly and heated through – 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 2 minutes more. Sprinkle Trader Joe’s onion pieces over top and cook for 1-2 minutes more, but keep a close eye because they brown rapidly. Allow to cool then serve.

January 15, 2011

Stout Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate...Cake...Stout... It's the best of so many worlds! I am constantly looking for cake recipes that are simple, but have the wow factor (in this case the chocolate and stout combination). Something easy to bake, and delicious for a special event like a birthday. I cut this recipe out of Real Simple magazine's holiday edition, 2010. Today I had the excuse of Lauren's birthday to bake it. Perfect to bring to The Mallard for everyone to have paired with their beverage of choice for the evening. Everyone loved the cake, it was a huge hit. Oh, and it was DELICIOUS!!!!!!

What's in it
Butter and unsweetened cocoa powder for the pan
1 C (2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 C flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 C stout beer (like Guinness)
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
3 eggs
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C heavy cream

How it's made
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12 cup bundt pan (be sure to butter thoroughly and to the rim) and dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess.

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

In a small saucepan melt the butter with the stout over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add 8 ounces of the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream eggs and sugars together with an electric mixer. Beat on medium high until fluffy. Add sour cream and chocolate stout mixture and cream together. Gradually mix in flour mixture a little at a time, and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, and bake on lower rack in oven 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs. Let the cake cool in the pan a half hour, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. If the cake seems over cooked (dry) on top, you can trim off the top, which will also allow it to sit flat on the plate when inverted.

While cake is cooling on rack, make the ganache. In a small sauce pan heat the heavy cream just until it boils. Add the remaining 4 ounces chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes whisk mixture until smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Pour over cake to glaze, using a spatula to smooth and distribute the glaze. Allow glaze to set before serving.

January 1, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup

Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and my childhood are inseparable. My mom religiously cooked its vegetarian recipes--in fact I don't remember her ever cooking from any other cookbook. She had some recipe cards, for sure, but as far as I know the Moosewood was the only book.

And you can tell from looking at the copy I inherited it that it has been lovingly used for the past 35 years. The title page contains page numbers of favorite recipes, there are notes in the margins and--the best indication of a cookbook's worth--stained pages from years of use. If those stains are any indication, the soup section of Katzen's book is the best. In my mother's house at least, they were the most often used. I grew up eating lentil soup and Hungarian mushroom soup. I would ask for the white bean and black olive soup as my special birthday meal.

The Moosewood mushroom barley soup is as simple as it is delicious. It is very savory and it lets the flavor of the mushrooms really come through. Barley is an under-utilized grain. It is inexpensive to buy in bulk, it cooks easily like rice, and adds a distinct flavor and depth.

For how delicious this soup is, the recipe is surprisingly easy and not at all labor intensive. It does take around an hour to cook, but most of the time it is simmering and does not require you to slave over it. The ingredient list is shorter than many (less flavorful) soups and therefore prep-time is minimal.

We had this soup on a cold mid-winter night with a glass of red wine (thank you, Libby!) and hunks of crusty La Brea sourdough bread. It was, in Starbucks speak, "a perfect pairing," and one I would highly recommend. I have a feeling my future kids will be as familiar with the Moosewood Cookbook as I was.
Mushroom Barley Soup
  • 1/2 cup raw pearled barley
  • 6 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, vegetable stock (or water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons tamari (a type of soy sauce)
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 heaping cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a soup pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of stock to a boil. Stir in barley, cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer until barley is tender, about 35 minutes. (Note: If you soak the barley over night in a cup of water or stock, you can reduce cooking time to around 15 minutes.)
  2. Add the remaining stock, tamari and sherry.
  3. Saute the onions and garlic in butter over medium heat. When they soften, add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt. When all is tender, add to the barley--making sure to include all of the liquid in the pan.
  4. Generously sprinkle with black pepper and simmer for 20 minutes, covered, over the lowest possible heat. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve hot.
Serves 6