Friday, January 31, 2014


I've only made lasagna a couple of times. It's not something we eat frequently, and I must admit it's a lot easier to pull a Stouffer's box out of the freezer case!  But I've been craving it lately.  I was going to put one together quickly the other morning so hubby could bake it while we were at swimming lessons, but then I discovered I was out of spaghetti sauce. 

Well I'm still out of spaghetti sauce, but I wanted to make it tonight, so I decided to wing it.  And wing it I did.  The end result was slightly runny but tasty! 

I made it in an 8x8 pan.  I easily had enough of everything except mozzarella (I only bought a small package) to make it in a 9x13 if I'd wanted to.

Lasagna from Scratch

1 20-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1/4 medium onion, grated
1 large carrot, grated
5 cloves garlic, grated
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 c. red wine (I used merlot because that's what I had open).
1 1/2 T. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound browned and drained ground beef (this is when the pre-cooked packages I have in the freezer come in handy!)
4 - 6 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 c. small curd cottage cheese
grated parmesan cheese (I use the kind in the can)
1 pound mozzarella, thinly sliced

For the sauce:
Combine tomatoes, sauce, onion, carrot, garlic, Italian seasoning, wine, and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down and simmer 15 - 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in ground beef and heat until warmed through.

For the lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put a small amount of sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish.  Top with noodles to fill pan with a single layer (that's two of the noodles I buy from Trader Joe's.  Top with a thin layer of sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Top with 1 cup of cottage cheese and spread to cover (make sure the noodles are completely covered).  Top that with a layer of mozzarella.  Add another thin layer of sauce, then more noodles, and repeat the rest of the layers.  Add another set of layers if you have space.  Make sure you end with a layer of sauce topped with a layer of mozzarella.

Top with foil (I didn't do this and believe me, you'll want to - my mozzarella was really overbaked).  Bake 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let stand 15 - 20 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Parmesan Chicken and Sauteed Pasta

Tonight was one of those "head into the kitchen and find something easy" nights.  We're out of milk at the moment, so creamed tuna and biscuits, my original idea, was out.  Finally decided I'd cook some chicken tenderloins because they're so quick, and wanted some pasta to go along with it.  So I whipped this up and it was perfect! 

Side note:  A few weeks ago I made my own dried breadcrumbs from some "day old" bread a friend gave me.  Such a difference from the stuff in a canister!  I keep it in the freezer and it has such a nice texture to it!  I may never go back...

Parmesan Chicken

12 ounces chicken tenderloins
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated parmesan (the kind in the green can)
2 T. brown mustard (dijon would also work well here)
1 T. dried minced onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375.  Place the chicken in an 8x8 pan.  In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients except bread crumbs.   Spread the mixture over the chicken and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Sauteed pasta

I love the way this turned out.  The flavor of the onions, the crispy edges on the pasta, so delicious!

8 ounces dried pasta (I used small shells)
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 T. olive oil
3 T. butter, divided
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. garlic powder (you could also use fresh garlic - add it at the end of the onion cooking time).
salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package direction.   Meanwhile, heat olive oil and one tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat (cast iron works well here).  Add onion and cook until soft and just starting to brown.  When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain it well.  Add remaining butter to the skillet.  When melted, stir in thyme and garlic powder.  Add pasta and saute, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown.  Add salt to taste and serve. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pizza Pockets

Today I got to be home alone from 7:30 to 3:30.  That happens, oh, I don't know, once a year?  On MLK Day, which my husband doesn't have as a holiday and I do.  Normally I'd keep my daughter home from daycare to save the money and spend some time together, but I haven't had a day to myself in a long time so I decided I'd just stick with her regular Monday schedule.

I had a great day!  Watched whatever I wanted on TV, caught up on the laundry folding, and had time to make something special for dinner (Mondays are swimming lessons so we're usually eating hot dogs or frozen lasagna or something else that literally takes less than 15 minutes to put together.  I was thinking about making pasta from scratch, but my kitchen's a bit of a disaster at the moment.  Then I thought about making a chili and cornbread casserole, but wasn't really in the mood for chili.  I went out to the freezer to see what inspired me, and I noticed the bag of frozen roll dough that I bought a long, long time ago.  I wonder what I was going to do with that, anyway???

I grabbed the bread dough and a package of chicken Italian sausage and knew exactly what I was going to make.  And it was GOOD!!!!  The best part?  It made enough for dinner tonight and to freeze for another meal.  Yay!

The filling for these is as variable as pizza itself. I just used what I had on hand, and normally I would use fresh mushrooms and garlic.  Remember you don't want the filling to be too juicy or they will leak everywhere.

Pizza Pockets
makes 24

24 frozen bread roll balls
1 pound Italian sausage
1/4 medium onion, diced small
1 2.25-ounce can sliced olives, drained and roughly chopped
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained and roughly chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
6 slices provolone cheese, quartered

Place frozen roll dough on two greased or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Cut two sheets of plastic wrap long enough to cover the pans.  Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover the dough balls.  Let thaw two hours or until pliable, but not fully risen.

In a large skillet, brown Italian sausage and onion (if you're using chicken or other lowfat sausage, you may need to add a bit of oil).  Break up the sausage into small pieces (a potato masher works well for this!).  Add remaining ingredients except cheese.  Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

When dough is thawed, press each out into a 4-inch circle (I prefer to do this one at a time).  Place a piece of cheese and approx. two tablespoons of the meat filling into the center of each circle.  Bring up all the edges, pressing to seal, forming a ball.  Place on the baking sheet, seam side down.  When finished, cover again with plastic wrap.  Let rise 30 minutes, or put in the fridge for several hours.

If you choose to put them in the fridge, remove them about 45 minutes before baking so they come back to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap and bake, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.