Saturday, August 30, 2008

Garden Vegetable Lasagna

As I've been developing my culinary skills and interest, I've noticed that while I tend to try new things, I really enjoy experimenting with things I love and trying new variations.

I love a good lasagna (I am my father's daughter! Hi Daddy!) and was excited to try Jenny's garden version. Same great flavor with the added veggies tucked right in - so side dish needed!

I admit that I was very skeptical about the sauce - it just seemed so THICK and pasty! But it really delivered and everyone ate it. The marscarpone gave it a little bit of added flavor and texture, and the veggies... MMMM!!! A great meal for summer, and a great way to lighten up such a classic.

It does take a bit to prepare (plus the hour baketime), so it's not a good work-week dinner, but when you have the extra time to devote to your dinner, it's totally worth it.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup finely diced white onion
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1. Heat oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion for 5 minutes, stirring often then stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, tomato paste and basil leaves. Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to use.

Vegetable filling

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 2 Cups broccoli florets
  • 2 Cups diced eggplant
  • 4 Cups fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Pinches of salt
1. Heat oil into a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Saute all ingredients for 10-12 minutes, season with a couple pinches of salt, stirring often or until softened to your liking. Cook longer for softer texture. Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to use.

Ricotta Mascarpone Layers

  • 1 ½ pounds part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 Cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ Cup soft mascarpone cheese
  • 2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1. Place all ingredients into a large bowl; stir until well combined.

  • 9 oz oven ready lasagna noodles

To Assemble:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat bottom of a large 9x13 inch baking dish with a couple ladles of homemade sauce. Next, layer with lasagna noodles. Spoon 1/3 Ricotta Mascarpone mixture over noodles, spreading slightly (I used my fingers). Top evenly with 1/3 vegetables. Repeat this process 2 more times or until all ingredients are used up. The top layer should be lasagna noodles. Pour remaining sauce over noodles then sprinkle with 2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake covered for 45-50 minutes, then remove foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

2. Let sit in pan for 15 minutes before cutting into it. Serve and enjoy!

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

As co-founder of the Dinner Divas cooking group, I got to pick two of the first month's recipes! For my Food Network selection, I went with my girl Giada and chose her Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese.

I gotta be honest, though - I wasn't feeling this dinner. I really can't put my finger on why, though, so I don't know how to adjust for next time. I think I was just expecting something cozy (I mean, really - pasta=comfort food!) and it just didn't deliver. It certainly wasn't BAD; just not what I was hoping for.

To all of my fellow dinner divas - sorry I let y'all down. Don't hold it against me...!

And for the record, this might be the very first Giada meal to disappoint me.


  • 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups very hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.

Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Me x 6

Ahh, Christina got me again! Hee hee!

Here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Okay, let's see if I can think of 6 things...

1. I fenced when I was in high school for a couple of years. Then, at my old job, I coached the JV girls. We were undefeated my first year of coaching!

2. I MUST eat M&Ms in pairs, and they have to be the same color. Only after all pairs are finished will I eat non-matching colors.

3. I do not think I'm capable of an efficient day if I did not have coffee.

4. I can only drink milk that comes from a plastic gallon. If it's from a carton, I can totally taste the cardboard.

5. I like a lot of whole-wheat things, but really can't get into whole-wheat pasta.

6. Ryan knows to give a kiss if he wants something, so sometimes I offer him random things just to get a kiss.

Okay, I'm cheating and not tagging people. If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged. Now do it! :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Panzanella

Mmmm, another delicious Barefoot Bloggers dish! This Panzanella is one of my favorites so far, second only to the equally delicious Parmesan Chicken. Pat took some for lunch today, and if I may quote his email: "The salad is good stuff!!!"

One of the best things about this group is that it's "forcing" me to make something I wouldn't have on my own. I'd never make this - but I am so glad I did. Light and summery and delicious... what a perfect summertime salad!

Thanks, Melissa, for choosing this one!

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, roughly diced
  • 1 zucchini, unpeeled, roughly diced
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly diced
  • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Half Whole-Wheat Cookies - revisited

Jen and Stella came over for lunch today (YAY!!) so I wanted to make a little treat. I made these Half-Whole-Wheet Chocolate Chip Cookies about a month or two ago, and they were GOOD. I wanted to change up the ingredients a bit to try to make them a tad bit "healthier," and this is what I came up with!

They were still as delicious as last time! Actually, I think they were even better. This time, they were so much fluffier and softer, whereas last time they were a bit flat and crispy. And with all of the changes I made to them, I feel they are practically vegetables. :)


  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Morton's low-sodium salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup Smart Balance butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar blend (use a full cup if using regular brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 egg substitute (if using regular eggs, use 2)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375.

Sift together flours, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and then eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Slowly stir in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool completely on wire rack.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

This is by FAR my absolute favorite of all of the recipes I've seen and tried from The Pioneer Woman. I have already eaten 2 chicken thighs, plus some of Ryan's scraps, and I could totally go eat more. Fabulous. Seriously. Go make this now - read the rest of the post later!

I don't even have anything else to say about this. It's just so, so good.


  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups plain, unflavored yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Parsley
  • 1 lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • 1 ½ cups Panko bread crumbs

Prepare a baking dish by buttering it lightly. Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the yogurt, garlic, and parsley in a bowl and mix well; add the lemon juice.

Thoroughly rinse the chicken, and salt it well.

Pour some Panko breadcrumbs into a second bowl and season them a bit.

Dip each piece of chicken into the yogurt and coat it well. Transfer to the Panko bowl and roll around to coat thoroughly again. Repeat the process until they are all breaded, and place in the baking dish.

Then, place a slice of butter over the large part of the chicken. According to the Pioneer Woman herself, this is a very important step, as the Panko breadcrumbs tend to get pretty dry without the moisture of the butter. Plus, she likes butter.

Now cover in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, removing foil for the last 15 minutes to allow it to get nice and golden. I actually had to bake mine for almost 1 hour 15 minutes this time, so be prepared to keep going until it’s nice and golden and sizzling. You’ll want the breading on the underside of the chicken not to be soft and mushy, so pay attention to it.


Awww!!! I got TWO awards!!

The first is an award from Reservations Not Required!! It's kind of ironic, because hers is a blog that I've really looked up to since I started this whole blogging thing. And I feel we share a little bond since we both have picky toddlers... :)

Thank you, RNR, not just for the award but for your inspiration!

My friend Christina also graced me with an award! Yay!! She and I tend to have similar tastes in food and you'll find a lot of the same dishes on both of our blogs. You know what they say about great minds... ;)

Now, I'd like to pass these on to:


Monday, August 11, 2008

Chicken Vino Bianco

I love knock-off recipes. So when I saw this fake-out Olive Garden dinner on Amy's blog, I couldn't wait to try it out.

I ended up changing things around to accomodate my mood and the rest of my dinner plans, but this was REALLY good. The chicken was nice and moist and fork-tender - I love when that happens!

I served it over orzo because, well, I had some left and wanted to use it up.

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts; pounded thin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup small diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Small can of crushed tomatoes
  • 5 T butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb orzo

1. Heat oil in large sauté pan. Dump flour and Italian seasoning into a large ziploc. Add the chicken, and toss around to coat. Cook chicken on both sides until golden brown and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

2. Add 2 Tbsp butter to pan. Add onion, diced tomato, red onion, mushrooms, garlic, chopped parsley, crushed red pepper, black pepper and salt to pan. Let saute' for three minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Add chicken back to pan. Add white wine, lemon juice, crushed tomatoes, and the remainder of the butter. Allow to come to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions. Add drained cooked pasta to the pan and toss together and serve.

Restaurant Review: Sophie's Bistro

I have decided to incorporate some restaurant experiences into my food blog, although that means embarassing my husband when I whip out my camera in the middle of dinner... (Oh, and I am "prohibited" from taking any pictures of HIS food. Ha!)

Yesterday was our fifth anniversary!! To celebrate, we went to Sophie's Bistro, a little French place near us.

A little back story: last July, we went on a cruise with my family. There was a French restaurant on the ship, but we were never able to get reservations in time. For our anniversary last year, my brother got us a gift certificate to Sophie's to try to compensate for not going on the cruise.

So... we went last night to celebrate 5 years of marriage!

For an appetizer, I ordered Onion Soup, which was delicious. Creamier than any version I've ever had, but very good.

Dinner was Coq au Vin, which had such a flavorful slow-cooked feel... awesome comfort food. It also reminded me of my grandmother's chicken soup, which of course added to the warm fuzzy feeling I had while eating.

We were very full after eating, but couldn't pass up dessert, so we ordered the Chocolate Sophie to go. I am waiting until Pat is around to share it, so I haven't tasted it yet, but come ON. How amazing does this look?! I cannot WAIT to dive into this.

For kicks, here are all of our past anniversaries!

1 Year - Las Vegas

2 Years - New York City

3 Years - Boston (Yes, I was a taaaad pregnant...)

4 Years - New York City

5 Years - New Jersey

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I have come to a conclusion: as much as I want to, I just do not like whole wheat pasta.

I was really excited when I saw this recipe for Spinach Lasagna Rolls from Wine a Bit... You'll Feel Better. All of the yummy goodness had to yield a good dish!!

And it would have, I think, if I had used regular pasta. Despite the sauce and spinach and everything, the taste of the pasta was just too overpowering. Next time, I'm going "regular" for sure!

  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2.5 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2.5 cups (10 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups tomato sauce

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, cheeses, spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large bowl. Spread 1/3 cups cheese mixture over each cooked noodle and carefully roll up.

2. Pour one cup spaghetti sauce into an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Tilt pan so sauce distributes evenly. Place roll-ups seam side down over sauce. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Breakfast Risotto

I could hardly contain my excitement when I saw this post by the Crockpot Lady for Breakfast Risotto. I even emailed her with questions about it and she was SO NICE AND FUNNY when she wrote back!!

However, I did something wrong. I don't know what. It looked nothing like hers and it was the most UN-creamy thing I've ever eaten. It was just a dry bowl of mush and I was so sad. :(

I think I either cooked it too long or didn't use enough liquid... but I think my timing wasn't bad because I kept checking/stirring it and seemed globby from the beginning.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 little apples
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1/8 t all spice
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups of liquid (I used half apple juice and half milk)

Turn your crock to high and add the butter so it can start melting. Wash and cut up your apples while it begins to melt.

Add the rice to the butter, and stir it around to coat it nicely. If the butter isn't completely melted, don't worry. Mine wasn't either, and it didn't seem to make a difference.

Add the apples, and spices. Stir in the juice/milk.

Cover and cook on high for 3-5 hours, or on low for 6 or so.

Granola Crusted French Toast

When I first saw this recipe for Granola-Crusted French Toast from Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings, I knew I wanted to make it for breakfast on our anniversary (which was yesterday).

I was so worried about her warning to not grind the granola too much that I didn't do it ENOUGH and had to redo it. Whoops! Also, I think next time, I'm going to only add a little bit of granola to the dish at a time; towards the end, the granola just got really soggy and wasn't sticking well to the bread.

But overall, this was DELICIOUS and I cannot wait to make it again! And at the store, I found "Cocoa-nilla" granola and I was so giddy. YUM!

Here is a (really dark) shot of Ryan pausing from his breakfast to pose for the camera:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 pieces Texas Toast
  • 1 1/2 cups granola
  • Confectioners' Sugar (for dusting)

If granola is in large clusters, use a food processor to grind into smaller pieces (being careful not to grind too finely); transfer to a wide, shallow bowl.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Add the bread and soak until saturated.

In batches, transfer the bread to the granola crumbs, heavily coating each slice.

Spray large skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Working in batches of two, add the granola-coated bread and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Dust with Confectioners' sugar and serve warm.

Amish Friendship Bread

My good friend Brooke gave me a baggie last week with goo in it and told me to make bread. At first I had NO idea what she was talking about... but she explained that it's a "starter" bag for Amish Friendship Bread. Awesome!

So I kept the bag on the counter and followed the directions to the letter. I squeezed, I added ingredients, I let out air... and I didn't let the yeasty smell deter me. Nor was I put off by Pat's questions about the "goo," or my mom asking me why I had a "bag of slime" on my counter.

Well, let's just say (again) that if I didn't already adore Brooke, I sure would now. This bread is just so obnoxiously delicious that I am tempted to not give away my new three bags and keep them all to myself!!

(PS - Brooke is FAMOUS!)


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Combine the ingredients in a large deep glass or plastic pitcher and cover tightly. Store at room temperature and stir every day with a wooden spoon for 17 days.

On day 18 do nothing.

On days 19, 20 and 21 stir.

On day 22, stir and add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir again.

On days 23, 24, 25 and 26 stir.

On day 27 add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. You will now have 4 cups of starter.

Give three friends 1 cup each of the starter, with the below instructions, and keep one for yourself to bake your bread!

Amish Friendship Bread
Helpful Hints: Do NOT refrigerate the mixture! Do not use metal spoons or bowls for mixing. If the bag puffs with air, let it out.

Day 1 - receive the start

Day 2-4 - squeeze the bag

Day 5 - add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk to the bag; squeeze to mix

Day 6-9 - squeeze the bag

Day 10 - baking day! Squeeze the bag, the pour the batter into a glass bowl. To the batter add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk and mix with a wooden spoon. Fill three gallon sized Ziploc bags with 1 cup batter each and give the bags to three friends with a copy of this recipe.

To the remaining batter in the bowl, add the following:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Grease two loaf pans and coat the pans with cinnamon sugar. Divide the batter between the loaf pans and top with more cinnamon sugar. Bake for 1 hour. Cool loaves in pans for 10 minutes before removing.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Summer Chili

Dear Lauren,
You do not like beer. At all. In fact, you hate it. So was it really a smart idea to elect a recipe that involved cooking with it? Did you really think that, along with most of the alcohol, the TASTE would cook out? Not so much, chica. Next time, try wine or broth.
Love and kisses,

Well, I was so psyched for this recipe for Summer Chili by Patty. SO.PSYCHED. But I'm a moron. I don't know why I didn't sub in something else for the beer, but I could totally taste it, and no amount of sour cream or cheddar cheese could mask the flavor.

Other than that, though, I think I liked it... I couldn't finish my dish, though, because of the beer taste. I definitely want a do-over with this one with either wine or beef broth.

Pat loved it, though, so if you like a good brewski, go for it!

You can find Patty's original recipe by clicking the link above. My version is below.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 pound ground turkey
½ - ¾ cup summer ale
1 can black beans
1 can of pink beans
1 zucchini, roughly diced
1 1/2-2 cups tomato sauce
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder (not as much as regular chili!!)
2 - 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
1 ½ - 2 tablespoons honey
Splash of lime juice (optional)
Toppers: Cheddar cheese, green onions, chopped tomatoes
Heat your pan to medium, put the olive oil into the pan. Toss in the chopped onion. Brown your ground turkey.
Pour in the beer and cook for a few minutes to let the alcohol cook out.
Drop the heat back to medium and add in everything else, no particular order (except for the toppings, of course!). Then, let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. At the very last second – cut a lime in half and squeeze the juice over the chili.
Serve warm over rice with your choice of toppings. I happen to like cheese, green onions & chopped tomatoes.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


My cyber-buddy Heather and I decided to create a cooking group for the girls on our message board. After much deliberation and polling and emailing over names, ideas, themes, etc, we are excited to bring you...


The Dinner Divas!

We will be featuring two recipes a month for you to try out, enjoy, and make your own, selected for you by our members. These dishes will likely focus on Food Network stars, although fellow Divas can choose any recipe they'd like.

Want to join? Click the link above for the blog and send us an email.

Here is the first recipe: The Chicken Cobb Burger by grill master Bobby Flay.

Happy cooking - we cannot wait to see the results!
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