Sunday, February 1, 2015

**Small Family Size Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna

**needs photos and write up
I like lasagna filling more than I like noodles, and I hate trying to keep track of all the boiled noodles without losing the little ruffled edges.  Therefore I make lasagna that has a higher filling to noodle ratio--and use oven ready noodles so I don't have to stress about separating cooked noodles.  This make ahead dish makes a 'small family' size pan (9 inch square) of lasagna, great for a couple of leftovers but not weeks of leftovers.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna

3 pints tomato sauce or tomato puree (not paste)
½ cup chopped basil leaves (mine were frozen)
3 to 4 cloves roasted garlic (here's how I roast and put up my crop) or minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
5 to 6 cups baby spinach, wilted
8 ounces roasted butternut squash (if cut in half, a squash takes about 20-45 min at 400 degrees)
12 ounces ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese, or a blend of each)
1 egg
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded asiago
8 pieces (½ box) oven ready lasagna noodles

You'll notice that I'm not starting off with "preheat the oven . . .". That's not an omission.  I think the finished lasagna is better if the noodles have a chance to soak up the sauce before baking.  My homemade sauce is not concentrated, so it is the perfect liquid for the noodles to absorb and I wanted to make sure that the noodles had the time to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives and then get a move on before I cranked up the heat.

In a saucepan, simmer the tomatoes, basil, smashed garlic, sugar and salt while you prepare the filling (about 15-20 minutes).  In a large skillet over medium heat, stir the spinach with ¼ cup water for 5-10 minutes until wilted and nearly dry.
In a large bowl, combine squash, ricotta, egg, and spices until thoroughly mixed. Stir in spinach.  In a 9 inch square pan ladle ½ cup sauce across the bottom.  Top with 2 noodles.  Spread ⅓ of ricotta mixture over noodles, top with ½ cup mozzarella cheese and 1 cup sauce.  Repeat layers of noodle/ricotta/cheese/sauce 2 more times, then top with final pair of noodles. Cover top layer of noodles with the rest of the sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the asiago cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and set the pan on the counter to take the chill off while the oven is preheating. [This is probably not necessary with a metal pan, but mine is ceramic and I don't want to subject it to wild temperature swings.] Bake for 30 minutes covered, then remove foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes uncovered until edges are browned and crispy.  Let stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Loaded Pizza Fries #EatWithWest #ChubbyChasingMission #CysticFibrosisAwareness

Beef and salami sautéed with farm share vegetables then coated in a seasoned tomato sauce top these baked fries. Mozzarella and cheddar cheese covers the whole pan in cheesy goodness.

For the first year of this blog I posted a new pizza recipe every Friday night. I shared recipes for pizza dough, savory pizzas with fruit, vegetarian pizzas and pizzas with meat toppings. I posted so many pizza recipes that I even created a Visual Pizza Recipe Index to keep them all tidy, and a Pinterest board devoted to pizza, Friday Night Pizza Night.
Over the second year I added to the Index more slowly, interspersing Friday pizzas with other types of recipes but broadening the types by adding Deep Dish pizzas [I'll probably add a Deep House Dish category to the VPRI at some point since I'm amassing a collection in my notebook].

Today's post is a three-way collision between a Friday pizza recipe & meaty appetizer, a bonus alternative use for the topping, and a request for my readers to help out a family in my town by posting photos on social media. Let's start with the food, which weaves its way throughout the post. I admit I'm slightly surprised by how this idea of mine turned out. When I started thinking about this recipe, I envisioned some sort of pizza-flavored sloppy joes served on slider buns. Kinda like these:

The flavor of the filling was fine, but it was too . . . sloppy for me. This is when the kids are pretty tickled to come home from school and hear "I'm trying a new recipe. Eat one of these pizza sliders for after school snack and tell me what you think." [They like those days better than the "we've got too many beets in the freezer, here's a smoothie" or "find something to eat, I'm busy editing" days].

I'm posting these photos of my kids eating on the blog for one reason--to encourage a little guy in my town, Weston, to take another bite of food. Weston is 3 and needs to gain some weight, and if he doesn't do it by eating he'll need to have a feeding tube inserted in his tummy. Seeing photos of folks eating tasty food encourages Weston to take another bite, so I've tagged this post with the hashtags #EatWithWest, #ChubbyChasingMission, and #CysticFibrosisAwareness. I'd really appreciate it if you could tag and share photos of you/your kids/your uncle eating and share them on your favorite social media channels too.

Back, sort of, to the drawing board with this recipe. I mean, the concoction of ground beef, spicy salami, veggies and tomato sauce--covered in cheese--is a good one. It's just that the delivery vehicle needs work. I thought about a dip, but I'm still not sold on the right dipper--leaning towards making ciabatta sticks but I wanted something easy. We all like fries, so taking the meat sauce and making loaded pizza fries seemed like a good solution. I baked up a tray of fries, heated the meat, and just went for it. This time it was deliciously fun to fork up all that cheesy pizza goodness with fries.

If you have a slider bun you like--these would make good pizza-flavored sloppy joes. Use sliced mozzarella not shreds, though, it's less messy.
missing, so many things missing. pesto, garlic, fries and cheddar

Oh, a Note:  I should have made these in my pretty purple pot (Amazon affiliate link) but I'd already used and washed it once that day and just didn't feel like digging it out of the clean dishes pile and washing it again. So I used a 3 qt saucepan and while everything fit, there wasn't much room to move around and sauté. It would have been better in a straight-sided heavy-bottomed pot.

Loaded Pizza Fries (makes a ton of sauce. seriously enough for at least 2 trays of fries)

¾ pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped salami (or pepperoni if you prefer--I should have chopped mine smaller)
16 ounces tomato puree
2 Tablespoons prepared pesto (here's how I put mine up)
2 cloves roasted garlic (here's how I put up my crop, and you can sub regular garlic if you like)
(possible additional spices--salt, pepper, and sugar or honey)
1 bag frozen fries (about 26 ounces, I'm partial to the extra crispy seasoned types)
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
optional--slider buns and sliced mozzarella cheese

To make the sauce--in a large pot (see Note) over medium heat brown ground beef and Italian sausage, using a spoon to break up the meat into small pieces. Drain some fat (don't kill yourself getting it all out) and add the vegetables to the pot. Sauté the vegetables 5 to 8 minutes, stirring to combine with the meat. Add the salami, tomato, pesto and garlic and stir well. Once you see some bubbles, reduce heat to medium low to keep it at a gentle simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste--do you want to add salt, pepper, or a pinch of white sugar? Mine was good so I left it at that. This sauce keeps a few days in the fridge, but you'll want it warm to assemble the loaded fries.
When you're ready to make the fries, preheat the oven to the temperature recommended by the fry people (for me that's 425 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake fries on a rimmed baking sheet according to package directions (for me that's about 20 to 25 minutes). When they are done, remove the baking sheet and spoon a thin layer of sauce over top. Top with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned in spots.  Hit it with the broiler if you feel it's not melting enough for you, then dig in.

Behind the scenes--the dogs were grooving on the smell of these sliders:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bacon Cheeseburger Tomato Jam Dip

Hot, hearty, cheesy, beefy--I've unpacked the adjectives for this dip, but the name pretty much says it all. It's a bacon cheeseburger dip using tomato jam to provide some bold summery flavor in winter.

Why is it that there's a big eating event in the dead of winter? Sure, sure, Thanksgiving is generally after a frost, but most of the Thanksgiving vegetables lend themselves to long storing or freezing. I'm talking about walking into 3 different grocery stores in 2 days [yes, I get around] and being assaulted with goal posts surrounded by mounds of fresh tomatoes and peppers and avocados. That ain't right.

Fresh tomatoes, everywhere on the mainland US that I've lived, don't taste very good in the dead of winter. It's almost criminal to tantalize shoppers with the prospect of fresh vegetables when the flavor doesn't back up the promise.  I turn to preserved tomatoes (those that I've canned, slow roasted and frozen, or jammed) for my winter time tomato flavor. I'll happily buy a jar of salsa [or crack open a jar of strawberry salsa] but make fresh tomato salsa from the store stuff to eat during the game? Not happening. Not now. I will GORGE myself on fresh tomatoes from July-ish through October-ish, but then I put up as much as possible so that I can enjoy these summer flavors in winter.

Here's another way I use my preserves.

If you're watching the game in shorts and a t-shirt, this recipe may not apply to you. While I like my room temperature snacks, our TV is in the basement along with the Strategic Winter Squash Reserve and I need something to keep me warm while watching.
Sure, sure, having 2 to 3 dogs piled on my lap [occasionally tap dancing on my hard cider-filled bladder] does provide an extra 120 pound layer of insulation. However, it also prevents me from getting up to pee get refills of this savory dip. I suppose that's a form of portion control. You can see a quick pic of us on my FB page.

I made this dip last year* after being inspired by the Bacon Double Cheese Burger Dip at Closet Cooking. I thought that using some tomato jam (from Marisa's recipe at Food In Jars) would provide a bit of bold spicy sweetness to play off of the bacon, so I got busy with some of the cow that lives in my freezer.  This recipe works both as a dip for a sturdy tortilla chip and a filling for a slider bun (those pictures did not turn out as well though).

For other recipes using ground beef, please see my Ground Beef Recipe Round Up, 106 recipes from a whole host of food bloggers covering a variety of eating styles and categories [though there are no desserts using ground beef in this round up. that's icky to me]. Need a hot vegetarian dip? Try my Baked Artichoke and Arugula Dip instead.