Thursday, November 18, 2010

Easy and Delicious Lasagna

We had guests over this week, on a night that I had to work late.  While I knew that the hubby could pull together a wonderful meal of fajitas or something on the grill, the weather has been colder and I thought that it would be nice to have a warm cheesy casserole.  After doing a couple of internet searches for an easy make ahead casserole, I decided on this lasagna.   After assembly I placed in the refrigerator and the hubby was able to pop it in so that when I got home dinner was ready!   This was a wonderful dish and will become part of our monthly dinner rotation, which is saying a lot because I am not a huge fan of lasagna!  The meat filling had a very deep and rich flavor which is surprising since it only took 15 - 20 minutes to pull it together!

Adapted from Real Simple

  • 12 ounces extra-lean ground beef or ground round
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 26-ounce jar roasted-tomato pasta sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
  • 1 15-ounce container low-fat ricotta
  • 1 cup shredded provolone or Italian-blend cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 8-ounce package 2 percent milk mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Cook the beef in a large saucepan over medium heat, breaking into small pieces. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of the basil. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. 

  • In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, provolone, 2 tablespoons of the basil, the egg, and the crushed red pepper. Place 3/4 cup of the pasta-sauce mixture in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Top with 3 cooked noodles, then spread a third of the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella and top with 3/4 cup of the pasta-sauce mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with 3/4 cup of the pasta-sauce mixture and the final 3 noodles. Spread the remaining sauce on top, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and cover with foil.

  • Bake for 30 minutes; uncover and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. 

**Since I refrigerated the lasagna, I baked for 45 minutes and set the pan out on the counter while the oven pre-heated. **


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My first attempt at Royal Icing

I have been inspired!  I recently came across a great blog called Bake at 350.  This wonderful blog is filled with treats that look mouthwatering and make you want to RUN into the kitchen or better yet her kitchen to try them out!  After spending a really long time looking and drooling over all the creations on her site I became inspired to try my hand at making some cookies decorated in Royal Icing.  Her instructions make what seems at first glance an intimidating project straightforward and uncomplicated.  So when a family friend asked me to make some cookies for her daughters Hawaiian themed Birthday I know that I wanted to try these out!  (I did make a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip and a batch of oatmeal cranberry just in case!)
I followed her instructions on both making the Royal Icing, found here as well her instructions on flooding and decorating found here.  I highly recommend trying these instructions - once you make the first one and see how fun it is you will be hooked!  My hubby even got in on the action and was having a great time decorating!

I am deciding on a theme for some Thanksgiving cookies for next week and will post the cookie recipe later this week!  Jump on over to Bake at 350 for some inspiration!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

I can't believe that it has been a month since I've posted!  What a busy month this has been!  I have had a massive work schedule which involves weekends and evenings, a wedding for dear friends which happened to be the day before our one year anniversary, a baby shower, Las Vegas Birthday trip, Halloween and a friends Thanksgiving! I am getting tired just thinking about it!!  It goes with out saying that my regular cooking and baking went a little out the window this month and it was a lot of meals of convenience (fajitas, tacos, soup and grilled cheese, etc.) and outside of making a pumpkin cake (YUM!) I haven't gotten in a whole of baking.  
The recipe below was made on one of the few nights when I didn't have to work late, I was actually working from home and it was a wonderful end to our day.  I would make this again, but I think I will pre-freeze half of it because it made a lot for the two of us!  This would also be delicious in muffin pans, the edges would get nice and crispy!  I am not sure where this recipe originated as it was emailed over to me - so I am sorry that I'm not giving credit to a delicious recipe!

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni & Cheese
2 chicken breasts
12 oz. bottle buffalo sauce, divided
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 cup light sour cream
8 oz. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese
8 oz. crumbled blue cheese
3 T butter
3 T flour
3 cups skim milk
1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and drizzle with a few splashes of buffalo sauce. Stir to coat and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. When you're ready to begin cooking, pour chicken pieces and sauce into a medium-sized saucepan and heat until cooked through. Drain and set aside, sprinkling with a bit more buffalo sauce if desired.

In a large bowl, mix all three cheeses together. (Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture to use later for the topping.) Add sour cream to the remaining cheese mixture and stir well to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 350º and begin cooking pasta per package directions. Meanwhile melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring constantly until combined. Remove momentarily from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and whisk milk constantly until thickened. This step should be done about the time your pasta is finished cooking/

When the sauce is thickened, pour over cheese mixture and stir well. Add cooked pasta and stir until well-combined. Stir in cooked chicken pieces and all but a few tablespoons of the buffalo sauce. Transfer everything into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

To make the topping, add bread crumbs to the reserved cheese mixture, sprinkling with the reserved buffalo sauce to bring everything together. Sprinkle topping over mac and cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned.