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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1 comment:

  1. You guys are insane!!! That is SOO much food! Looks good though.