Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Side Dish Extravaganza with Patriotic Blueberry Pizza and Southern Sweet Potato Pie

This week's post is about those great side dishes that you will want for your Fourth of July party.  Dishes to make your burgers and dogs sing.  All you need is sunshine and good company.  Or, if you're in the northwest, good company.

Candied Cabbage
Once you start eating this, it's hard to stop.  It's great on any sandwich, and don't forget to come back to this when you're looking for a new Thanksgiving side dish that you make the night before.  It's such a vibrant, beautiful color. And oh-so-easy. 

1 small head red cabbage
1 small onion, diced super fine
1/2 c vegetable oil
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c white vinegar

Shred cabbage on the finest setting on a mandoline. Place in heat resistant bowl with onion and mix well.  In small sauce pan bring oil, sugar and vinegar to boil.  Pour over cabbage and do not stir.  Cover with TIGHT lid.  Refrigerate over night. (Don't skip this step.)

Crock Pot Baked Beans from Scratch
You might wonder if it's worth making these, since it's arguably easier to open up baked beans from a can. Here's the thing. These are amazing, and YOU control what's going in the dish. You can definitely taste the difference.  You can also make this recipe with canned beans- just skip the soaking and boiling and use 2 cans of beans.

1 1/2 c great northern dried beans
4-6 c water (to boil)
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c water
1 tsp dry mustard
2 T molasses
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 lb salt pork or 4 slices bacon, diced

Soak dried beands overnight, then drain. In large pot, add 4-6 more cups of water and bring beans to a boil. Don't drain, and pour beans and water into crock pot, and stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  

Salter Potato Salad
The wonderful thing about Claire's family's potato salad is that it doesn't have mayonnaise in it, so it's practically healthy.  It tastes light, but the olive oil and vinegar give it a creamy feel in your mouth. 

8-10 red potatoes
5-6 eggs
3/4 c finely chopped celery
1/2 c finely diced onion
1/2 c olive oil
2 T cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In large pot of water, place potatoes in bottom. Gently place eggs on top and bring to a boil.  Cook just until potatoes are done.  Drain water and let cool.  When just cool enough to handle, dice potatoes and eggs into large bowl.  Add celery and onions.  Toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  (You may need to adjust the oil to your tastes.) Serve at room temperature.

Baked Zucchini and Asparagus Fries
I made some homemade buttermilk ranch dressing to go with these fries. They were delicious. If you want to get your kids to eat zucchini and asparagus, this is the way to go. They crisp up well in the oven, thanks to the parmesan cheese.  Also a good way to make onion rings without deep-frying.   Recipe adapted by Our Best Bites from Aggie’s Kitchen

2-3 medium zucchini
1/2 lb. asparagus
(1 onion, sliced into 1/2 - 5/8 inch rings, if desired)
1/2 c Italian-seasoned panko bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese (the crumbly stuff, not shreds)
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 425. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Put the eggs in a shallow bowl. 
Trim the ends off the zucchini and slice into 1/4 -3/8 inch slices. Cut in half, then cut the slices into 1/4 -3/8 inch fry-sized pieces. Thicker strips will yield “meatier” fries with more zucchini flavor while thin strips will be crispy and taste virtually nothing like zucchini.  Snap the tough ends off the asparagus spears, if necessary.  Using a paring knife, slice the asparagus in half length-wise.  Cut into fry-length pieces. 
Working with a small handful at a time, dip the vegetable sticks in the egg, shake to remove any excess, and then roll them in about 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs at a time, adding more as needed.  You just don’t want to work with all the bread crumbs at once because they’ll soak up moisture from the egg and won’t stick to the zucchini or asparagus very well. Place the coated strips on the prepared baking sheet and repeat until all the vegetable strips have been coated.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove, flip, and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are not soggy and the coating is crisp and golden brown. Serve immediately with ketchup or Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (see below).

The onion rings were yummy, too.  Imagine them on a burger...
Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
My kids are huge ranch dressing fans.  This just takes a few minutes to put together. It tastes fresh, and lacks that weird store-bought flavor that probably comes from all the weird emulsifiers.  Great way to use up buttermillk.

1/3 c light mayonnaise
1/3 c buttermilk
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp dried basil (or 2 leaves finely diced fresh basil)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until blended.

Patriotic Blueberry Pizza with Strawberries
The kids in Claire's neighborhood beg for this all summer.  It reminds me of the blueberry and strawberry creations that are always found on the cover of the July issues of women's magazines. It is even better the next day.  Keep refrigerated!

1 c butter, softened
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 c white flour
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 package (8oz) cream cheese (low fat is okay, but not fat free)
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c whipped cream or 1 tub cool whip
1/2 tsp vanilla

4 c blueberries
2 T cornstarch
3 T white sugar
3 T water
Sliced strawberries for garnish

Mix crust ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.   Press into a deep dish pizza pan.  Make a ridge all the way around edge.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until just starting to get golden brown.  Let cool completely.  Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, mix filling ingredients together with a mixer.  Let chill in fridge.

In a medium sauce pan, combine blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and water.  Stir frequently and bring to a boil.  Let cool.

Spread the cream cheese filling on the cooled cookie crust, then spread the cooled blueberry topping.  Garnish with strawberries.

Ingrid's Sweet Potato Pie
My friend Ingrid made this for me when I had my twins.  She got it from her friend BJ, who is a truly great Southern cook.  I had always preferred pumpkin pie over sweet potato pie, until I had this.  You will be converted, too.  You won't go back to pumpkin.  My kids can't get enough, and I almost feed them however much they want, since it's practically a vegetable! Try it with the optional candied pecan topping. Maybe technically this is a fall dish, but I was really craving sweet potato pie. My family ate a whole pie in one meal.  Serving it warm really brings out the vanilla.  

3 pie crusts, frozen or homemade
6 hand-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 T vanilla
1 T evaporated milk (add last)

Mix all ingredients (except the milk) together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add in the evaporated milk.  Distribute evenly among 3 pie crusts.  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Pecan Topping (optional)
2 T butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c pecans/pecan bits

Mix ingredients together and sprinkle over pie when they have about 5-8 minutes left in the oven. It's enough for a thick sprinkle for 2 pies, or thin sprinkle for all 3 pies.

Slow-roasted Pork Roast with Molasses Mustard Glaze
Ok, we made a main dish also- slow cooked pork, but it turned out really dry.  I didn't even cook it as long as it was supposed to be cooked.  So, I'll include it in here, but it wasn't as good as the ribs from the previous post. The Molasses Mustard Glaze was great, however, and makes a nice crust. 

3-4 lb. pork sirloin roast or tenderloin
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup grainy mustard
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt

Combine marinade ingredients together.  Coat the pork roast in mixture, and marinate the pork for several hours or overnight. Place in 275 degree oven, fat side up in the center rack for 4 1/2 hours covered, baste with additional marinade. Bake an additional 1/2 hour uncovered. Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.  Let rest for 15 - 20 minutes.  If there is any remaining marinade, bring to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over top of the sliced pork. 

Please leave us a comment!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Stew and Thai Coconut Mahi Mahi

Today it was just Claire, myself, our 5 year olds, and the 18 month old twins in the kitchen.  These recipes were somewhat new for us, so we had to concentrate.  One of these days I will take a picture of the absolute mess my kitchen becomes when we do this.  Oh, and we also made a couple of Easy Macaroni and Cheese casseroles for other families.  (See the Lasagne: Red, White, and Bleu, Ole!  post.)  I didn't include the recipe here, but to make it vegetarian, I used one can of cream of mushroom and one can of cream of celery instead. And no bacon.

I've had a bunch of turnips in my refrigerator drawer that I've been wanting to use up, and our CSA farm helpfully gives us scads of great recipes that use things like Russian kale, chevril, and the arch enemy of all children: Swiss chard. This Moroccan Chicken and Turnip Stew was one of the recipes.  It turned out fabulously.  The zucchini noodles are so versatile- you can also serve them with a teriyaki glazed salmon steak or mix with spaghetti noodles with Bolognese sauce on top.

Morrocan Turnip and Chicken Stew
There are a few ingredients that are in this stew that you can leave out if you are cooking out of your pantry. I didn't quite have all the turnips that the recipe called for, so I used a couple of potatoes in addition.  The original recipe calls for a whole chicken, but I grabbed a couple of boneless breast packets out of the freezer.  I also had  some kale and carrots on hand, so I added those for color. People talk endlessly about the wonders of saffron- I don't buy it regularly, but you can often find it for cheap in ethnic food stores. The reality is that most people don't stock it in their kitchens.  If that's the case, leave it out.  Consider substituting a teaspoon or two of curry powder in lieu of the saffron and turmeric.

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
2 lbs. chicken drumsticks or thighs (boneless if desired)
3 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch saffron threads
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 lb. small turnips, rinsed and quartered
2 potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
(1 1/2 c kale, chopped, optional)
(1/2 c carrots, small cubes, optional)
1/4 c lemon juice
salt and pepper

Melt butter and oil in Dutch oven-sized pot and lightly brown chicken on all sides, cooking in two batches if necessary.  Remove the chicken and cut into 1 inch chunks once cool. Leave to the side. Stir onions into butter and oil to color.  Add the chickpeas, stock, white pepper, ginger, saffron, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken. Add turnips, potatoes, and carrots and simmer 20 minutes more. Add kale. Simmer sauce to reduce, mashing some of the chickpeas against the side of the pan to thicken the sauce; it may take 10-15 minutes to produce a nice thick sauce. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Adapted from The Victory Garden Cookbook.

Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Thai Coconut Sauce
Our friend Robi sent us an email with this mahi mahi recipe from, and we immediately had to try it.  It was delicious. The sauce would also be good on a flakier fleshed fish, like tilapia. Claire thought it might also be good with chicken.  As she puts it, "There is something magical that happens in my mouth when coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro come together." I agree.  We served it over the zucchini noodles, but consider plain jasmine rice if you are short on time.  The sauce is actually very quick to make.  If you can't find clam juice anywhere, you could use chicken stock.  (I mixed 8 oz chicken stock with 1/2 tsp anchovy paste.)  Do not subsitute fish sauce for clam juice, unless you are trying to get your sodium fix for the next 3 months.  I garnished with thinly sliced sweet red pepper. Mmmm.  Original recipe at

1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tsp ground red pepper (or diced serrano chile)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
4 tablespoons minced green onion
4 6-ounce mahi-mahi fillets

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or in our case the George Foreman grill. Combine first 6 ingredients in medium skillet. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or serrano chile, depending on level of heat desired; boil until sauce thickens slightly and is reduced to generous 3/4 cup, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro and 2 tablespoons green onions. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Brush fish all over with 1/4 cup sauce; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill fish until opaque in center and grill marks appear, 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of fish. Divide coconut sauce among 4 plates; top with fish. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and green onions.

Delicious lunch is served. Low carb, anyone?
Zucchini Noodles

I had been wanting to let Claire try my Zucchini noodles.  I've seen lots of recipes that have you use a vegetable peeler, so if you don't have a lemon zester, you can use a peeler. I like to use the lemon zester because it makes the noodles more uniform.  I've also made the noodles where I'll mix 1/2 zucchini noodles with 1/2 cooked spaghetti noodles.  The zucchini noodles blend right in, while the spaghetti noodles give the "pasta" a little more substance.  It's impossible for kids to pick the zucchini out, and the bonus for the adults is that you're getting less carbs.  I like to push the envelope by serving broccoli and salad on the side in addition, and not even counting the zuke noodles as a veggie. Haven't been called on it yet...

1 small-medium zucchini per person
(small amount matchstick carrots for color, if desired)
1 clove of garlic, slivered
1 tsp canola oil

Holding one end of the zucchini, use a lemon zester to shred the squash down to nothing. Rotate as you go. Don't trim the end off until you are done, as it makes a nice handle.  Repeat with the other zucchini. If there are a few small pieces left, you can slice them with a knife and add them to the pile of noodles.

Heat the oil in a pan.  Add the garlic.  Add the zucchini and stir fry for less than a minute.  Just cook long enough to soften.  Cooking for much longer than that will turn the noodles to mush.  Toss with equal parts cooked spaghetti if desired, or serve as is. Garnish with shredded parmesan, sesame seeds or poppy seeds, depending on your main dish.

Banana-Raisin Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce
As I was flipping through the William-Sonoma catalog, this recipe caught my eye.  We had to try it.  Pros:  it smelled delicious. Cons: time-consuming, needy, dry, and lots of egg yolks and heavy cream. Good thing you had the low carb mahi-mahi and zucchini noodles for dinner, eh? Sadly, this recipe did not really live up to the visual and olfactory hype. But we are including it anyway.  We are currently on a mission to find a better banana bread pudding recipe. Stay tuned. 

1 1/2 lb sliced bread, cut into 1-inch squares
2 T unsalted butter, at room temp, plus 2 T melted
4 3/4 c heavy cream
3 c milk
7 egg yolks
3 eggs
2/3 c plus 1/2 c granulated sugar, plus more to sprinkle
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled, sliced lengthwise into quarters, then into 1/4 chunks
2 T firmly packed brown sugar
4 T spiced rum

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the bread squares until the bread is dry, 6-8 minutes.  Remove bread and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Grease a 3 quart baking dish with room temperature butter.

In a large bowl, whisk 3 c cream, milk, 3 of the egg yolks, the whole eggs, 2/3 c granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Submerge the dried bread into the mixture and let soak for 30 minutes. Stir and press the bread into the liquid every 10 minutes.

Combine the banana slices and brown sugar in another bowl.  Toss well.  Place half the soaked bread into the prepared baking dish and cover evenly with bananas.  Top with remaining bread, and pour any remaining cream-egg mixture over the top.  Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with 1 T granulated sugar.

Place the baking dish in a large roasting pan, transfer the pan to the oven and pour 1 inch of very hot water into the roasting pan to make a water bath. Bake until top is golden brown and the pudding is just set, about 1 hour.  Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and let pudding cool in the water bath.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk the remaining 1 3/4 c cream, 4 egg yolks, and 1/2 c granulated sugar.  Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 5-6 minutes.  Do not let the mixture boil. Whisk in the rum, and strain sauce through a fine mesh sieve.

Serve in warm pudding bowls and drizzle with sauce and vanilla ice cream.  Serves 12.

  • The rum sauce separated as it cooled.
    Still pretty tasty, but overall disappointing recipe.
    We're calling it a Fail, but including it for posterity.
    As printed on one of those motivational kitten posters, 
    "Nobody's perfeck."
    • Please leave us comments and suggestions!
        George Foreman GRP4 Next Grilleration 72 Square Inch White Removable Plate Grill          The Victory Garden Cookbook (Paperback)      

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bacon Cheddar Waffles and Cheesy Sausage Egg Sourdough Pudding Bake

I needed to post this because Bacon Waffles are so important. This last batch we made with cheddar cheese, also.  We have a big family, and so this past Christmas, our family gift was a double-sided professional waffle maker.  It is awesome.  We are very serious about our waffles. I also made a cheesy egg bake, which was worth mentioning because of the leftover sourdough in it.  I guess it sort of makes it a cheesy egg sausage sourdough pudding bake.  With caramelized onions in it.  Your mouth should be watering. We serve breakfast with a huge selection of fruit.  The trick is to get everything on the table at roughly the same time.

Bacon Cheddar Waffles
We just use Krusteaz mix.  For a long time, my husband, the waffle maker, used to make Special Waffles from scratch.  He had this recipe where you had to beat the egg whites separately.  They were good, but didn't knock your socks off.  Then we started using premade mix. The secret is to add extra oil, as it turns out.  You can try to be healthy, but then your waffles won't taste as wonderful.  And they probably won't have bacon in them, either.

Waffle mix or your favorite waffle batter
Several strips of bacon, crumbled
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese, depending on how many waffles you're making

Prepare waffle batter according to instructions.  Add an extra tablespoon of cooking oil. Pour about half of the waffle batter you would use normally, sprinkle in bits of bacon and some cheddar cheese. Pour the rest of the waffle batter over the top.  Close the waffle iron and wait as you normally would... Serve while hot with warm maple syrup.

Cheesy Sausage Egg Sourdough Bread Pudding Bake
The original recipe says to soak overnight, but I didn't do this and it tasted fine. Keep in mind, we were serving a table of 10 people, so I made it big.  There were some leftovers, mainly because Bacon Cheddar Waffles are stiff competition, but it heated up really well and I sent the kids off to school knowing they had had a SOLID breakfast.  

1 stale sourdough baguette, cut into cubes
1 package of breakfast sausage
1/2 onion, sliced
1 dozen eggs
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheese
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9x13 inch baking pan. Slice and cube the baguette.  Cook sausage in a pan.  Remove sausage, but don't rinse the pan.  Toss the sliced onions into the pan on low-med heat and let them caramelize in the sausage drippings. Cut the sausage into small chunks. Beat the eggs in a med mixing bowl, add milk, and whisk lightly until blended.  Add the bread and stir so that it the liquid soaks in. Add the sausage and onions, and 1 1/2 c of the cheese. Pour mixture into the baking pan. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and bake for 45-50 minutes until set. 

Gratuitious waffle art by my almost 5 y/o daughter.
She requested that I post it. 
Waring Pro Professional Double Belgian Waffle Maker Model # WWM1200SA
Best waffle iron ever.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lasagna: Red, White, and Bleu, Ole!

Claire had a bunch of company coming in for a family event, and I took a look in the freezer the other day and was out of pre-made dinners.  So we had a Lasagna Assembly Fest to serve both of our needs.  We made 11 dinners and 1 full lunch in about 2 hours. Technically, one of the lasagnas is actually Mac & Cheese, but it's got bleu cheese crumbles, bacon bits, and caramelized onions in it, so go ahead and file a complaint in the comments below if you want. But I'm thinking you might be too busy wiping that drool off your keyboard before it shorts out. The Mac & Cheese is quick and easy (if you leave out the fancy stuff), and always a hit with kids.  Added bonus: you can brag about how you made homemade mac & cheese the next day. 

Claire's Traditional Lasagna
As with all the recipes presented in this post, make a double batch and stick one in the freezer. You will be so thankful later in the month when you are strapped for ideas and remember that you have this premade meal ready to thaw and bake.  Also, while no-bake lasagna noodles are easily available, you can still use regular lasagna noodles without boiling them first. It turns out just fine- we've been doing this for years. It saves a good half hour of prep time. Claire has tried other types of lasagna, but as she puts it, "This really has my heart with a great tossed green salad with balsamic and olive oil."  The texture of the diced tomatoes in the sauce is wonderful, and most of the stuff is probably in your pantry.  The store bought stuff is just not as good. Recipe makes enough for 2 lasagnas, one to eat and one to freeze.

1 lb Italian sausage, browned and drained

3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (adds a lot of flavor- don't shy away from it)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can tomato sauce (28 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (14 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz)
6 mushrooms, minced
1 carrot grated super fine on a microplane (leave it out if you can't grate it super fine)
1 T fresh basil (add at the end)

Back into the oven for a little more browning...
32 oz or large size ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 c mozzarella, shredded
1 cup finely grated fresh parmesan
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 c fresh spinach, finely chopped

black pepper to taste

1 package lasagna noodles
1 cup additional shredded mozzarella
1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese

Add olive oil to a heated pan. Saute garlic for about 1 minute before adding all herbs, except fresh basil. Saute another 30 seconds and add tomatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. Simmer 5 min.  Add browned, drained sausage and simmer 10 min.  Turn off the heat and stir in fresh basil.  

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients.

Freeze the second tray of lasagna, and thaw first before baking.  It makes a great dinner for a busy night or for a friend in need.  If you put the date you made it and the cooking directions in permanent marker on the foil wrap, anyone can bake it.  Anyone.  

Laura's Lemon Chicken Artichoke Lasagne
This dish was inspired by an entree my husband and I ordered at a local restaurant. I thought it would be even better with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes shingled across the top and left to brown. My daughter said that she thought they were like potato chips!  I used a jar of store bought alfredo sauce to save time, but I don't like how thick it is, so I dilute it with milk. You can use any type of chicken, including leftover rotisserie (use #278 for leftover rotisserie chicken!).  Serve it with roasted asparagus and a crisp salad.

2 cups cooked chicken
1 package lasagne noodles (I like a mix of regular and spinach noodles)
1 jar alfredo sauce
2/3 jar of milk
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 potatoes, thinly sliced
3 T olive oil
1 T dill weed
dash nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (minimal salt if you're using premade sauce)
1 c shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the jar of alfredo with equal parts of milk in a bowl (no need to heat it, but do mix it well).  Add lemon juice and zest, dill weed, dash nutmeg, and pepper.  Ladle about 3/4 cup of white sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Layer lasagna noodles. Sprinkle  1/2 of the chopped artichoke hearts next, followed by another layer of lasagna noodles. Ladle 3/4 c of sauce over noodles. Layer 1/2 the chicken and 1/2 the spinach. Sprinkle 1/2 c parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers again, but reserve 1/2 c parmesan cheese for the top layer. If there is any sauce left, ladle that in. Toss the thinly sliced potatoes with the olive oil and some good salt and pepper.  Layer like roof shingles over the top of the lasagna, and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown.  If the potatoes are not golden brown, broil for 5 minutes right before serving. 

I partially cooked this so I could get it in the freezer.
Once reheated, it will be a little browner. Delicious.

Easy Homemade Mac & Cheese: Plain and Fancy
The original version is Claire's- so simple, and a great way to use up leftover sour cream.  Kids love it.  We highly recommend the rigatoni noodles- they just hold the cheesy sauce better.  If you want a less authentic, more orange-y look of store bought mac-n-cheese, add a jar of pureed carrot baby food! If your kids can handle flecks of green, add a handful of chopped spinach, too. I made an adult version that blends bleu cheese, bacon, and caramelized onion- it takes a little bit longer to prepare the additions, but it's so worth it.  

1 lb box rigatoni noodles
Before baking, adult version.
1 tub sour cream (or most of one tub- doesn't need to be exact)
2 cans of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (can substitute cream of mushroom)
2 cups cheese- cheddar, preferably
1 cup toasted and seasoned bread crumbs (panko or homemade is better)

Adult version:1/2 thinly sliced onion
6 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 c bleu cheese crumbles

Boil and drain the rigatoni noodles, al dente. Place the noodles in a big mixing bowl and pour in the sour cream and soup.  Stir until the noodles are all coated. Blend in 1 1/2 c cheese. (Here is where you would also add the baby food carrots and chopped spinach if you want.)   Pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan, or two 8x8 inch baking pans.  *Layer the top with the rest of the cheddar cheese and a thin layer of bread crumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees or until golden brown.

*Adult version:Follow instructions as above, but leave out the last bit of grated cheddar.  Sprinkle the onions, bacon, and bleu cheese crumbles. Top with panko bread crumbs, but don't make it a full-thickness layer- you want some of the bleu cheese, bacon, and onions to peek through. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown. 
After baking, with the cheese all melty. There wasn't much leftover.
Mexican Lasagna Ole!
This is a version of Chicken Chilaquiles.  I had a stack of leftover, stale tortillas and a tray of pinto beans from a catered lunch.  It all would have gone in the garbage, but I mixed the beans with some shredded chicken and cheddar cheese and layered it with the tortillas and poured enchilada sauce over it. It was a big hit. Because I was using leftovers, the portions are approximate.  You'll note that the chopped spinach is missing from the list of ingredients.  I actually did put it in there; I just don't want to appear obsessive about adding chopped spinach to EVERYTHING. No one will notice the spinach in there, and you will feel good about feeding it to your family.

3 cups of cooked pinto beans (or about 2 cans, drained)
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 small onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can enchilada sauce
1 small can tomato sauce (I diluted the spice a little for the kids)
2 cans chicken, or about 2 cups leftover shredded chicken
1 package of tortillas, white or corn

Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft. Mix the onions and garlic with the beans, 1 c cheese, and the chicken together. Mix the enchilada sauce with the tomato sauce. You can also just use the enchilada sauce alone. Place a spoonful of enchilada/tomato sauce in a 9x13 inch casserole dish.  Put a single layer of tortillas down, followed by a layer of the chicken and bean mixture.  Add another spoonful of the enchilada/tomato sauce, followed by a layer of tortillas.  Repeat until you have used everything up. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Lunch looked like this:

Hungarian Cucumber Salad
This is a great go-to summer salad that is quick to make. The dressing just takes a minute, and I usually make it with just cucumber in it. The last time I made this, I had extra cubes of stale bread, so I toasted them and tossed them in with the salad. Filling and yummy!  This is adapted from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook

3 T red wine vinegar
1 heaping T Dijon mustard
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp paprika
approximately 4 T olive oil
1 seedless cucumber

Whisk red wine vinegar, Dijon, sugar, salt, pepper, dill weed, and paprika in a small bowl.  Continue whisking as you drizzle olive oil into the dressing mixture. Whisk until emulsified. Toss with cucumber, let the flavors marry for a bit before serving if you have time.  This makes a lot of dressing- you can reserve half of it for later, or use all of it and add in other veggies such as another cucumber, 1-2 sliced radishes, 1/2 sliced red pepper, 1 cup toasted bread cubes, and a chopped green onion/scallion. 

White Chicken Chili
This is adapted from Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz. It's filling enough to be a meal on its own.  Without a few drops of tabasco and a lime wedge, the soup is merely ok, but once you add the spicy and the sour, and toss in some cilantro, it pops!

2 lbs chicken breasts
6 cups of chicken broth
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
1 can green chiles
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can cannellini beans
sea salt to taste

lime wedges
grated cheddar cheese
avocado chunks
chopped cilantro
sour cream

Boil the chicken breasts in the broth. Once the chicken is done, remove from the broth (but reserve the broth), let cool until you're able to cut up into chunks.  In a separate pan, saute the onions and garlic in 1 T olive oil. Add to the broth.  Add the potatoes, carrots, chiles, and spices to the broth. Let simmer for 10 minutes and add the beans. When the carrots are tender, add the chicken and simmer another 10 minutes. Serve with garnish.

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