31 October 2008

Pumpkin Pudding

This is one I got from a magazine last year. Makes a wonderful, simple fall dessert.

Pumpkin Pudding

Ingredients:
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:
Whisk together pudding mix and evaporated milk. Stir in pumpkin and spice. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Very simple, yet tasty. It tastes like pumpkin pie in a pudding format. It would be great with whipped cream dolloped on top.

23 October 2008

Lasagna. . .Take Two

I've been struggling with lasagna.  I had never really made it before.  I tried it a couple of months ago and while it was okay, it just wasn't that great.  I didn't write down what I did (oops!) but I know the noodles were kind of thick and the whole dish just didn't "meld."  If you know what I mean.

So the other night I tried again.  This recipe is a combination of my creativity and the recipe on the Barilla box.

Traditional Lasagna

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 tbsp onion, finely diced, divided
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
1tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
15 oz. ricotta
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
12 no-boil lasagna noodles

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet.  Add 1 tbsp diced onion and sauté briefly.  Add ground beef and brown, breaking up chunks with a spoon or spatula. Drain with slotted spoon and pulse in food processor until uniform.  Pour grease out of skillet and wipe with paper towel.  Return beef to pan.

Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in medium saucepan.  Add 1 tbsp onion and garlic and sauté until soft.  Add tomatoes and heat through.  Add 2 cups spaghetti sauce, basil, and oregano and heat through.  When beef is browned, add spaghetti sauce to meat in large skillet and keep on low heat.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, mozzarella, and parsley.

Spray a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer the lasagna this way:
meat mixture
4 noodles, overlapping
ricotta mixture
shredded mozzarella
meat mixture
4 noodles, overlapping
ricotta mixture
meat mixture
4 noodles, overlapping
2 cups plain spaghetti sauce
shredded mozzarella

Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover dish with spray side down.  Bake 1 hour.  Uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Makes 8-12 servings.

So this one turned out a lot better.  The no-boil noodles are great!  Not only do you not have to boil them, but they turn out softer after being cooked than the traditional ones.  And it seems kind of weird when you are layering it because the noodles don't cover the entire thing, but they expand as they cook, so not to worry.  They really made the dish "meld."  

Next time I will omit the parsley.  I just didn't like the flavor.  Maybe I added too much, but the flavor was really strong.  I could try using dried instead of fresh, but the whole point was that I had some fresh that I wanted to use up.

It seemed pointless to add mozzarella to the ricotta mixture.  After it cooked, you couldn't even tell it was in there.  I thought it would get all stringy as it melted, but it didn't.  And while we're on the subject of the ricotta mixture. . . 

I'm just going to come right out and say it.  I don't like ricotta!  There, I said it!  I thought it was one of those things you have to get used to if you don't like it at first.  And after all, it's a cheese, so it can't be that bad, right?  Nope, I just simply don't like it.  So I think I will create an un-traditional lasagna recipe that has an alternative to the ricotta mixture.  I've got an idea rolling around in my head.  I'll think about it for a while longer then try it again.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

Here's a potato soup recipe I created for the slow cooker. Very simple, nothing fancy.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

Ingredients:
3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced (about 10 medium)
2 tbsp finely diced onion
½ tsp salt
1 cup ham, diced
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 can condensed cheese soup
12 oz. condensed skim milk

Directions:
Put potatoes, onion, salt, ham, and chicken stock in slow cooker. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until potatoes are done. Add cheese soup and condensed milk, stirring to combine. Serve.

Makes 6 servings.

The only thing I changed is the amount of liquid to put in. When I made it, I put in 4 cups of stock and it didn't look like it was enough, so I added 2 cups of water. Then, when the potatoes were done, there was way too much liquid still left, so I ladled out 2 cups of it. So I will leave the water out next time.


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13 October 2008

Girls' Night In!

Last Friday was my sister Hilary’s birthday. And it just so happened that Jim, Lena, and I were in town because Jim had a conference at the Fort Wayne seminary. I asked Hil if she would like to go out on her birthday and she decided it would be fun to stay in this time and hang out at her house. So then I asked her if she would like me to cook for her. She thought it would be fun if we cooked together. We hadn’t done that in a long time. Not since we made Enchiladas Hermanas, I think. Anyway, it was a great idea and we had a blast cooking together.

We ended up doing a tapas style dinner. We made four different dishes: Spinach Artichoke Dip, Mini Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes, Garlic Spinach, and Eggplant Tomato Bake. And we tried a new cocktail, Raspberry Kir.

Here are the recipes!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts
9 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
¾ - 1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 garlic clove

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine all ingredients and put in a 1 quart casserole dish. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Serve with toasted pita or tortilla chips.

Makes 4 servings.
Here's Hilary adding sour cream to the mixture.
The original recipe didn't call for it, but we thought it was kind of dry and clumpy. We were glad we did. It turned out beautifully. We toasted pita chips, and they got a little bit too "done" but oh well! It's really good with pita chips but would be fine with tortilla chips too.


Mini Turkey Meatballs and Tomatoes

Ingredients:
12 oz. lean ground turkey
½ onion, grated or finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
16 oz. canned diced tomatoes
salt and pepper

Directions:
Combine turkey, onion, garlic, half the oregano, and parmesan in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Roll into 40 bite sized balls.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add meatballs and cook, stirring gently to brown on all sides. When brown, add tomatoes and the rest of the oregano. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.
Here they are going into the pan.
And the finished product. Yummy!

Garlic Spinach

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
9 oz. fresh baby spinach
salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook pine nuts in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, tossing and turning for about 3 minutes or until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.
So this dish wasn't the greatest. For some reason, the spinach was bitter. We didn't use baby spinach, so we think maybe that was the problem. Also, it didn't have enough garlic. So I am going to try this again using baby spinach and more garlic.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, sliced into ½ inch rounds
1 tomato, sliced
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Arrange eggplant rounds on the cookie sheet and sprinkle parmesan over the eggplant. Layer one slice of tomato on top of each eggplant round. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
Before going into the oven.


We tried an addition to this recipe. We added a leaf of spinach to each one, underneath the tomato. We thought it would wilt down and be yummy. Nope, it didn't wilt down. It just got crispy around the edges like dry leaves in the fall. Not good eats! Again, maybe because it wasn't baby spinach? I don't know. Also, we got a ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced it, and put a slice on each piece. That part turned out well.
Raspberry Kir

Ingredients:
1 shot raspberry Vodka
2 shots champagne
Crystal Light Raspberry Ice

Directions:
Measure out shots into cocktail glass. Add Crystal Light to taste.
We had to change this to be able to drink it. It originally called for 1 oz. of raspberry vodka and a 1/4 oz. of champagne. 1/4 oz? What is that, like half a thimblefull? So we first tried 1 shot of each. But it was still not sweet enough, so that's when we upped the champagne and added Crystal Light. The champagne is nice because it makes it bubbly. And it wasn't pink until we added the Crytal Light, as the raspberry vodka is clear.
The finished meal. You can see the Raspberry Kir in the glass before we added Crystal Light to it. We got to eat it at Hilary's new dining room table and chairs. It was so nice! Her dining room is just beautiful. Good job, Hil!
We had so much fun cooking together. Can't wait to do it again!

11 October 2008

Raspberry Kir

A part of our Girls' Night In dinner.

Raspberry Kir

Ingredients:
1 shot raspberry Vodka
2 shots champagne
Crystal Light Raspberry Ice


Directions:
Measure out shots into cocktail glass. Add Crystal Light to taste.


We had to change this to be able to drink it. It originally called for 1 oz. of raspberry vodka and a 1/4 oz. of champagne. 1/4 oz? What is that, like half a thimblefull? So we first tried 1 shot of each. But it was still not sweet enough, so that's when we upped the champagne and added Crystal Light. The champagne is nice because it makes it bubbly. And it wasn't pink until we added the Crytal Light, as the raspberry vodka is clear.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

Before going into the oven.


A part of our Girls' Night In dinner.
Eggplant Tomato Bake
Ingredients:
1 eggplant, sliced into ½ inch rounds
1 tomato, sliced
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Arrange eggplant rounds on the cookie sheet and sprinkle parmesan over the eggplant. Layer one slice of tomato on top of each eggplant round. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
We tried an addition to this recipe. We added a leaf of spinach to each one, underneath the tomato. We thought it would wilt down and be yummy. Nope, it didn't wilt down. It just got crispy around the edges like dry leaves in the fall. Not good eats! Again, maybe because it wasn't baby spinach? I don't know. Also, we got a ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced it, and put a slice on each piece. That part turned out well.

Garlic Spinach


A part of our Girls' Night In dinner.
Garlic Spinach

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
9 oz. fresh baby spinach
salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook pine nuts in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, tossing and turning for about 3 minutes or until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.
So this dish wasn't the greatest. For some reason, the spinach was bitter. We didn't use baby spinach, so we think maybe that was the problem. Also, it didn't have enough garlic. So I am going to try this again using baby spinach and more garlic.

Spinach Artichoke Dip


A part of our Girls' Night In dinner.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts
9 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
¾ - 1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 garlic clove


Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°.


Combine all ingredients and put in a 1 quart casserole dish. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Serve with toasted pita or tortilla chips.

Makes 4 servings.

You can also throw this into a slow cooker for a few hours on low, stirring occasionally.

The original recipe didn't call for the sour cream. But after mixing everything else up, it seemed kind of dry and clumpy. It turned out great, so we are glad we added the sour cream. The only thing I might change next time is to break up the artichoke hearts a little bit. The chunks were really big and sometimes it was hard to dip. But it tasted great. We had it with toasted whole wheat pita chips.

Mini Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes



Part of our Girls' Night In dinner.


Mini Turkey Meatballs and Tomatoes

Ingredients:
12 oz. lean ground turkey
½ onion, grated or finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
16 oz. canned diced tomatoes
salt and pepper


Directions:
Combine turkey, onion, garlic, half the oregano, and parmesan in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Roll into 40 bite sized balls.


Heat oil in large skillet. Add meatballs and cook, stirring gently to brown on all sides. When brown, add tomatoes and the rest of the oregano. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.

Hilary accidentally put all the oregano in the meatballs, instead of saving half for the sauce. And it was just great! I think we used Italian-style tomatoes, so they probably had more in there as well.

The meatballs going into the pan.