January 29, 2013

Amber's Lasagna

It amazes me we do not yet have a recipe for lasagna on RFL yet! I've been making it often recently, and I think I am moving towards perfecting a recipe. That's the trouble with lasagna, is that there is so many different ways to make it, that it is hard to put it all down in one recipe. Here is a method I have cobbled together from a few different recipes, and it seems to be consistently yummy. The real secret to delicious lasagna is the sauce, so that is what you will be spending most of your time making in this recipe.

What's in it
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
1 bunch chopped fresh basil (divided)
oregano and other preferred italian spices
1 onion, chopped
several cloves garlic, minced (divided)
1 can marinara sauce (28 oz) or a couple jars of your favorite pasta sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 pound uncooked italian sausage, removed from casing and chopped (can choose sweet, hot or cheesy herb, etc)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
lots of fresh spinach (at least one bag, if you are buying bagged, and don't forget to wash!)
2 blocks grated havarti cheese (or a mixture of havarti and mozzarella)
1 cup fresh grated parmesean cheese
optional: 1-2 cups cottage cheese

How it's made
Start by making the sauce. In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil and saute the onion, garlic (reserve some garlic for later) and sausage, until sausage is browned and onions are translucent, season with salt. Then add half the chopped basil and other italian seasonings you have on hand (oregano, thyme, chili flakes, etc). Saute until basil is wilted. Add sauce and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Simmer on low for at least a half hour, to blend the flavors.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients: Combine shredded cheeses in a bowl. Saute garlic in olive oil in a skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until water is evaporated from them, and they are mostly cooked (do not over cook). Add spinach and saute until spinach is wilted.

Once all ingredients are prepared, set up assembly line of noodles, sauce, mushroom/spinach, cheese, chopped basil. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees, and pull out your large lasagna casserole dish. Spread small amount of sauce on bottom of pan, then layer noodles, sauce, mushroom/spinach, cheese and basil. You will be able to make three layers, but be sure to reserve sauce and cheese for very top (4th layer). It helps to apply even pressure to noodles once you lay them down, to compress all ingredients together, just try not to crack the noodles. Your top layer should just be sauce, and have some cheese set aside to sprinkle on top, later. Cover pan with foil (tight) and bake for at least a half hour, until bubbly. Remove foil, sprinkle cheese on top, and bake for another 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted and browned a bit. Remove from oven and let sand at least 20 minutes before serving.

The beauty of lasagna is you can add or subtract ingredients as you desire. You can add bell peppers or other veggies into the mushroom/spinach mixture. Or change up the cheese options. You can layer in sliced hard boiled eggs, as well. For a little more heat, use hot italian sausage and add more chili flakes to sauce. If you don't want to use sausage you can use ground beef. You can also make a huge batch of sauce and use more later for pasta or stuffed shells. Or freeze for next time.

January 26, 2013

Banana Crumb Muffins

These muffins are a delicious treat in the morning with your tea or coffee :) The crumble top is the key!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 bananas mashed (brown bananas are the best)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup backed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp cinammon

2 Tbs. flour
1/8 tsp cinammon
1 Tbs. butter

Preheat oven at 375' F
Grease or use muffin cups for a dozen muffins
Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter.  Whisk this into the flour mixture and pour into muffin cups.

For the crumble in a seperate small bowl, use two knives or pastry cutter to cut butter into flour and cinnammon.  (The more solid the butter the easier this is).  Sprinkle on top of each muffin.  Bake in oven for 18-20 min. 

Broccoli Chicken Casserole

This is our Dad's special casserole that we grew up with.  Great way to get kids to eat their greens!

2 cans condensed mushroom or chicken condensed soup (one of each is also a good option)
1 Tbs. cumin
very generous amount of cheddar cheese, shredded (the more the better)
2 small heads of brocoli (and stem), chopped
2 chicken breasts cooked or boiled and chopped into bite size pieces
soda crackers

Preheat oven to 375' F
In a large bowl mix soup cans with cumin, cheddar cheese, and chicken.

Spray caserolle dish with cooking spray and layer brocoli with chicken mix. Add any extra cheese on top then put crushed soda crackers on top to keep cheese from burning.

Cook for 45 minutes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is a really easy and delicious recipe! It can either be slow cooked if you want to make it in the morning or on the stove for a fast dinner and is good served with tortillas. Enjoy! :)

1 onion chopped
3 garlic, minced
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. chili powder (cayenne powder can also be used for more spice)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 can (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
10.5 oz. of condensed chicken broth (extra water can also replace this)
1 1/4 cups water
1 can of corn or 1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup white hominy
green chile peppers
1 can black beans rinsed and drained (garbanzo beans are also good to add)
chicken cooked and cut
chopped green onions
crushed tortilla chips
sliced avocado
shredded monterey jack cheese

Heat oil over medium heat in a pot and saute onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth, and water.  Bring to a boil, simmer for 5-10 min.

Stir in remaining ingredients (except leave crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, and cheese for serving on top of soup). 

January 3, 2013

Chicken Vindaloo

I don't spend a lot of time planning my last meal, but when I started thinking about how exactly to describe this chicken vindaloo recipe, I started thinking about Ajanta's chicken vindaloo. Ajanta has the best Indian food in the Bay Area. That's my opinion, but not just my opinion. It has been so designated by Zagat and SF Baylist for a few years, though I'm lucky enough to have known about Ajanta for at least a decade.

I once traveled to India mostly to experience a country where I could find this incredible food everywhere. I probably should have known that not every restaurant in India would be Ajanta-calibre. Disappointingly, I found nothing that could compare. So even after five weeks in India, Ajanta has the best Indian food I've ever eaten. 

Next I bought the Ajanta cookbook, hoping to get their vindaloo recipe. No dice.

I may never be able to make vindaloo like the chefs at Ajanta, but if I had to pick a recipe that could approximate the experience, I would feel comfortable leaving it to Cook's Illustrated. I expected that something as complexly flavorful as vindaloo would be really hard to make, but it is surprisingly simple. And, it's a one pot recipe which is always a bonus. (Especially if you are doing the dishes--and I am.)
This particular vindaloo recipe was inspired by Savory, a new spice shop in my neighborhood. They had a great curry selection, including a vindaloo spice blend that made this recipe super simple!

The more I thought about vindaloo, the clearer it became. Since I love food it would definitely be a very tough decision, but if it came down to it, I think my last meal would be chicken vindaloo. It's just that good.

Chicken Vindaloo
~Print Recipe~

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves, divided
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower- middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high until shimmering. Add meat, keeping pieces close together but not touching. Cook, not moving pieces until the side in contact with the pot are well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until most sides are well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer meat to a medium bowl.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining tablespoon oil to empty Dutch oven, and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. After onions have softened, about 5 minutes, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and spices or spice blend. Stir until onion are evenly coated and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add broth, scraping pan bottom and edges with wooden spoon to loosen remaining browned bits and dissolve flour. Add tomatoes, vinegar, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Add browned chicken and accumulated juices, submerging meat under liquid. Return to simmer, cover and place in oven. Cook for 2 hours.
  4. Remove pot from oven. If serving immediately, spoon off any accumulated fat at surface. Remove bay leaves, stir in some cilantro. Adjust seasonings. Serve immediately with a garnish of cilantro leaves.