Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hungry Cougar's Super Yummy Homemade Applesauce

I recently went apple picking, as I love to do every fall, and ended up with the usual abundance of apples that I had no idea what to do with. So I went looking for applesauce recipes, and found this great, easy recipe that I modified a bit. I did a small batch to see how it went, but I'm sure you could easily double it. This was also my first time using my slow-cooker, and wow do I ever love that thing. Sorry I have no pictures, me and the fiance ate it too fast.

5 apples (I used Macintosh and Courtland), peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (I was a little more liberal with the cinnamon)

1. Add everything to slow cooker and stir a bit.
2. Cook on high for 3-3 1/2 hours.
3. Depending on how chunky you like your applesauce, you can leave as is or mush it up a bit.
4. Chill and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Broccoli-Cheese Cornbread Muffins

These were recommended to me by another mom with a picky eater. For a kid who really only likes to eat cheese and carrots, my daughter likes these a lot.

4 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 tsp salt
1 box cornbread mix (I used an 8.5 oz Jiffy)
1 10oz bag frozen broccoli florets, thawed, drained and chopped finely
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(1 medium onion, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a muffin pan with liners.
In a bowl, combine eggs, butter and salt.
Stir in cornbread mix until just blended; stir in remaining ingredients.
Pour into muffin pan and back for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Serve warm.

I always leave out the onion to make them more kid-friendly.
They look a little moldy, thanks to the broccoli, but still taste great!
They freeze really well - just let them cool completely and toss them in a freezer ziplock bag. Reheat for about 20 seconds in the microwave.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the easiest vegetarian lasagna ever

I love Mark Bittman as much as the next person, and I actually own the cookbook and use it quite frequently. But over the years I've devised my own semi-vegan, sorta lowfat lasagna method, which now M makes when we have people over for dinner. People luv it. And it's way easier than Mark's.

you need:

lasagna noodles
2 jars pasta sauce or you can make your own (I make pasta sauce all the time, so I often have some kicking around)
2 packages tofu: one soft, one extra-firm*
1/2 cup grated parmesan (grate it yourself! on the small holes. don't buy pre-grated, blech.)
2 eggs
frozen spinach OR sauteed fresh spinach and garlic OR sauteed mushrooms and onions OR slices of baked eggplant
one package veggie ground (the fake ground meat stuff), optional
grated mozzarella or cheddar for the top (again, grate it yourself!)

and here's how you do it:

first) consider your veggies; ie, saute your mushrooms, defrost your spinach, bake your eggplant, etc.

second) mash the whole package of soft tofu and half the package of extra-firm tofu* with the two eggs. Add the parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper.

third) don't cook the pasta! You don't need to. And you don't have to buy special "no-boil" pasta. It just doesn't matter. If there are any exposed edges they might get a tad crunchy. Whatevs.

fourth) construct. Layer as follows in a big glass baking dish:
on the bottom: about 1/3 a jar of pasta sauce, ish
pasta, in one layer
tofu/cheese/egg mixture
spinach/mushrooms/eggplant/whatever veggie you're using
about half the package of veggie ground, no need to cook it first
Keep layering. You'll run out of stuff as you go. No biggie. End with pasta and then another layer of sauce on top. You need lots of sauce in this lasagna, since you didn't cook the pasta first.

fifth) on the top: a whole lot of grated mozz or cheddar. I really like cheddar for this, and as a plus, I always have it in the house. Also add lots of Italian seasoning (or any fresh herbs you may have). Sometimes it's nice to add cherry tomato halves, nestled facing up amongst the cheese.

sixth) bake at 350 for 45 minutes, covered with tinfoil. At this point, take the tinfoil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let it sit for 15 minutes after you take it out; this helps it stay together.

* About the tofu: this recipe works best with 1 1/2 packages of tofu. Therefore, I always do one soft and one half extra-firm, since I am way more likely to use the leftover extra-firm in a stirfry before it goes bad. By all means use two softs and then you can use the extra half block of soft for something else. Smoothie? Pudding? I have no idea.

Take that, Mr. Bittman!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Most Complicated Vegetarian Lasagana Ever

I love, love, love Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. It's chock full of delicious things (but no photos), and if I had more room for cookbooks in my hallway bookshelf I'd buy my own copy instead of repeatedly borrowing it from the library.

It seems like it has been a billion years since I made vegetarian lasagna. Now that the weather has turned crisp I've been itching to make it. Bittman has a wonderful recipe for it and at first glance it seems like every other vegetarian lasagna recipe I've made in the past. But here is where it gets complicated- Bittman's recipe called for fresh pasta (ha! I'm not where near that yet) and homemade sauce (which I have not made before but curious to try). Then he suggests 11 options for layers in the lasagna including:
Broiled or Steamed Greens
Roasted Artichoke Hearts
Grilled or Broiled Eggplant
Eggplant Slices with Garlic and Parsley
Sauteed Mushrooms
Caramelized Onions
Roasted Red Peppers
Oven Roasted Fresh Plum Tomatoes
Butternut Squash, Braised and Glazed
Panfried Pumpkin with Tomato Sauce
Baked Mixed Vegetables with Olive Oil

Now the recipe already calls for 3 cups fresh spinach so I didn't want to go overboard with veggies (actually I did, but Mr. Snowgoose who didn't). Mr. Snowgoose requested the grilled eggplant and since we had received a grill pan earlier in the week as a gift, I was glad to oblige him.

Before I continue I should show you exactly how small my kitchen is. I've had bigger bathtubs.

My small kitchen made the lasagna quite difficult. For starters the grill pan take up most of the stove top, so I had to grill the eggplant first and set it aside. Then I boiled the noodles (though we don't have a large pot to boil in yet) and started the tomato sauce. During the process I ran out of counter space and had to get creative on where I made my work stations.

Here is a breakdown of the recipes:
1 recipe any fresh pasta, rolled into sheets, or 12 dried lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons softened butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 recipes Fast Tomato Sauce
3 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry and chopped or any other dropped vegetable
3 cups ricotta, plus more if needed
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles (6 at a time for dried noodles) until they are tender but underdone (they will finish cooking as the lasagna bakes). Drain and then lay the noodles flat on a towel so they don't stick.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a rectangular baking dish with the butter and olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce, and spread it around. Put a layer of noodles in the dish, trimming any overhanging edges; top with a layer of tomato sauce, 1/3 spinach, and 1.4 of the ricotta and Parmesan. Sprinkle some salt and pepper between the layers of tomato sauce and spinach as needed.
3. Repeat the layers twice and top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta and Parmesan. I added 1 layer of grilled eggplant instead of a layer of noodles.

4. Bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Grilled Eggplant
2 medium or one large eggplant
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Peel the eggplant if the skin is thick or the eggplant is less than perfectly firm; cut it into 1/2 inch thick slices. Heat a charcoal or gas grill or the broiler to moderately high heat and put the grill rack about 4 inches from the heat source or the broiler rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
2. If you like, stir the garlic into the olive oil, then brush one side of the eggplant slices with the oil. Place oiled side down, on a baking sheet or directly on the grill. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then brush with more oil.
3. Broil or grill until browned on both sides, turning once or twice, brushing with more olive oil if the eggplant looks dry and adjusting the heat or position as necessary to keep the eggplant cooking steadily without burning. , usually less than 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Fast Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 medium onion chopped
one 24-36 ounce can tomatoes, drained and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
chopped parsley or basil leaves for garnish

1. Put the olive oil in a 10-12 inch skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break up and mixture comes together and thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and immediately toss the pasta (garnish with cheese or an herb if you'd like)or use in other dishes.

The tomato sauce is really good!

Cook's notes:
The whole cooking process took over 2 hours, but was worth it. We took the lasagna over to my Father in Law's house for Sunday dinner. Both he and Mr. Snowgoose ate several helpings and took leftovers to work for lunch for two days. Mr. Snowgoose even requested we eat the lasagna two nights in a row. I suppose it helped I made an extra side dish of it.

Would I make this again? Probably, though I'd make the sauce ahead of time and probably just use caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, though the grilled eggplant was a nice addition.

Also, I just mixed the ricotta and spinach together to make it easier to spread for the layers.