Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

maple and harissa carrots 4

 

It’s an Autumn Saturday morning in Chicago. As I sit here and type this, I’ve already seen the weather go from dark and cold, to windy and pouring rain. Now, its slightly breezy and a lovely 70 degrees F and sunshine. Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, my fiance is a weather geek and it’s rubbed off on me. For another thing, I’m attempting to draw the correlation between this simple carrot recipe (three distinct flavor profiles), and the three stages of this mornings weather. For the last thing, I realize this is a lame analogy … I’ll do better next time.

Silly food – weather comparisons aside, this IS a delicious and lovely carrot recipe. A great combination of sweet and spicy with a slight smoky flavor from the cumin. So easy, even your significant other couldn’t screw it up.

I love buying carrots with the leafy tops still attached. Remove tops when you arrive home and store in an airtight plastic bag in your refrigerator. They will last much longer this way. You already know this, but it’s worth reiterating that grocery store pre bagged carrots have nothin’ on fresh farmers market carrots.

maple and harissa carrots 7maple and harissa carrots 1

 

Simple side dish is the name of the game here.  Cut carrots, toss with glaze, and roast away. Just make sure to bring an umbrella when you leave the house today.

maple and harissa carrots 2maple and harissa carrots 3maple and harissa carrots 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 6-8 large) carrots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp harissa chili paste, more if you like spicy
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Peel and trim off the ends of the carrots.  Cut into quarters, first crosswise, then lengthwise.
  3. Make glaze by combining the remainder of the ingredients.
  4. Toss carrots in glaze.
  5. Arrange carrots onto baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes. Flip/turn carrots 2 times during the cooking process.

Italian Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

(New Years day, 2013)  While watching his beloved Stanford Cardinal lose in the Rose Bowl, our friend declares, “this is the best soup I’ve ever had.”

(I can’t remember the specific below zero windchill day in the month of February, 2014)  My fiance came in from the cold to find this soup cooking. He consumed it. He smiled, then he DIDN’T complain about the weather.

(Two weeks ago) I was tense. I made this soup. I ate it. I relaxed.

This soup has powers. Powers that can change your state of mind. Make you forget about your team losing a big game. Make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, even on the worst of days. Make you involuntarily exhale an audible “Mmmmm” after your first spoonful. Make you relax away the days tension in your shoulders and jaw. Make you smile.

Doesn’t take long to make. Doesn’t take long for the robust aroma to permeate your kitchen. Doesn’t take long to realize … This soup is powerfully, comfortably, so very … good.

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale SoupItalian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cleaned, ribs removed and diced
  • 1 28oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 boxes fat free chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, left whole (I have a rosemary plant on my windowsill.  Rosemary can easily left out if you do not have it readily available)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 lb dried pasta (I used medium shells)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, plus more for garnish, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Additional chicken broth, if needed

Directions:

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook for 6-8 minutes until no longer pink while breaking up the sausage into bite sized pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add onions, celery, carrots and red bell pepper, and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, beans, chicken broth, oregano, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  (Note: Cook the soup at this stage for as long as you can. Sometimes I let the soup simmer away for several hours.)  During the last 10 minutes of cook time, add kale and cook for 10 minutes. Remove rosemary stem and adjust seasoning for salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup pot, simmer for a few minutes, and ladle into bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley.

Note: If you plan to have leftover soup to eat later in the week, do not add the noodles to the soup pot. Instead, add 1/2 cup cooked pasta to individual bowls and ladle pipping hot soup on top. (When noodles are added straight to the pot, they will adsorb the broth and leftovers wouldn’t be much of a “soup” anymore.)

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

I’m guilty of it. I’ll readily admit. I’m guilty of eating kale multiple days a week. I love it in my Fall Quinoa and Kale Salad, Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino, and Kale and Corn Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette.  All incredibly tasty, satisfying, and hearty. But just because kale can be tough and bitter doesn’t mean you have to “sneak” kale into a salad. Kale actually CAN be deliciously featured in a salad with just a few other ingredients. This is not “kale propaganda.” This is the truth!

By massaging the fibrous leaves, you bring out their sweetness and transform them into something tender and easier to digest.  Just chop up the kale, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and use your fingers to rub the oil into the leaves.  After a minute or two, the leaves will begin to wilt and shrink. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference. This salad benefits from being dressed about 15 minutes before it is served. The acid in the dressing helps to break down the kale even more and yields a more tender green.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Preparation for this salad is minimal.

Homemade croutons and salad dressing are always easy on the budget.

Simple. Inexpensive. Kale. Yum.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of day old french bread (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • A pinch of garlic powder
  • 2 bunches of Lacinato kale (about 8 cups), cleaned and dried
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • The juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: avocado and tomato

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place french bread on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through until bread is crusty. Remove bread from the oven and cool. Tear bread into small (1/2 inch) pieces and toss with the melted butter, salt, pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder. Bake breadcrumb croutons for another 5-10 minutes until golden. Set aside and cool.
  2. Remove stems from kale and slice into thin ribbons.  Don’t forget to massage your kale!
  3. Prepare salad dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  4. Toss together kale and half of the dressing.  Be sure to allow salad to sit for approx 15 minutes. Add additional dressing to your preference. Top with Parmesan cheese and croutons (and avocado and tomato if you desire).

Servings 4 (Serving Size: 2 cups)

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

I’m writing this at 2pm on Friday of Labor Day weekend. We’ve all mailed it in at this point, right? We’re done doing “actual’ work. So, in the spirit of Labor Day, I give you this fantastic dish. Ideal for a lazy summer weekend afternoon. Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken.  Vibrantly flavored, full of crisp vegetables, and easily adaptable. (Did I throw in enough buzz terms there?)

I made a vinaigrette packed with fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and a hint of heat from the chili paste. A subtle bit of spice. Just enough.  Soba noodles, often times labeled as buckwheat noodles, can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. They’ve got a distinct flavor and sweetness. I love ’em.

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Easily modified by using any variety of vegetables you have on hand.  Asparagus in your crisper drawer? Shave thin and toss it in (That was an unintentional rhyme). Bright and beautiful green beans at the farmers market? Quickly blanch along with the soba noodles during the last minute of cook time, then add ’em to the party.  Looking for a meatless meal? Simply leave the chicken out. You’re the boss.

Whip this dish together before fall flavors take over the market. Unique, delicious, and (obviously) a cinch to put together. Now, let’s get after this long weekend!

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced or fresh ginger paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 lb (2 large) boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine 2 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/2 tsp chili paste. Pulse until combined.  Pour sauce into a bowl, add toasted sesame seeds, and set aside.
  2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add chicken, season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown and just cooked through.  Add 1/3 of the sauce to the chicken, toss to coat, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Toss together noodles, cucumber, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, green onion, chicken, and another 1/3 of the sauce.  Add additional sauce if necessary.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Servings: 4

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-2

 

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder was right on.

The freshness of your ingredients – heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, fresh basil – make this simple salad so beautiful and delicious. Ideal for late summer gatherings with friends or family.  Pair with a good bottle of wine and fresh bread.

A simple post for a simple salad. I’d like to think Laura would wholeheartedly enjoy this. I’m certain you will.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-1Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese SaladHeirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-3

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 2 balls burrata cheese (8 ounces total), torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices.  Discard ends and season tomato slices with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange tomatoes on a platter, overlapping slightly.  Top with burrata and fresh basil.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Servings: 4 (side-dish) or 2 (main-dish with some crusty bread)

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

I don’t cook mussels at home often enough. But, I did this past Friday. It was glorious.

Elegant, affordable, readily available, and a breeze to make. From the fridge to dinner table, the mussels are ready to devour in just 20 minutes. I paired this batch with white wine, garlic, parsley and lemon. Obviously, I had some good bread to soak up the broth.

A few tips about buying, storing, and cleaning:

Buying: When you’re at the fish market, make sure the mussels are kept over ice and that their shells are glistening with moisture. The shells should be tightly closed. The mussels should smell briny, like the ocean. Mussels are living creatures, so they will still be alive when you buy them at the store. (Don’t worry, they don’t bite) Though wild mussels are available in certain markets, the vast majority of mussels you’ll find at the market are farm-raised.

Storing: Mussels are best if cooked within a few hours of purchasing. If you can’t do that, they’ll be fine for a few days in the fridge. If you need to store them, place the mussels in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel to keep the mussels protected and moist, and store in the fridge. The mussels need to breathe, so don’t store them in an airtight container or in water.

Cleaning: Mussels attach themselves to stable surfaces using thin sticky membranes referred to as “beards.”  Most farm-raised mussels will come debearded, but odds are good you’ll find a couple of stubborn beards left over.  Look for a group of short brown strings coming out on one side of the mussel where the two halves of the shell close. This is the “beard.” Grip these strings with your fingers and tug gently from side to side. As you tug, the strings will pull out and detach from the shell. If you have trouble gripping the beard with your fingers, a dry paper towel usually does the trick.

Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and ParsleySteamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley

 

On to the recipe …

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds mussels. Prince Edward Island (PEI) are my favorite.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in a strainer and check them over. If you feel any muddy spots, rub under running water to remove.  All the mussels should be tightly closed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells. If the shell is open, tap the mussel lightly against the counter. If the shell doesn’t close in a few minutes, discard the mussel. Do a quick check for beards.  If any beards are still attached, remove and discard.
  2. Now you’re ready to start cooking. Warm butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add shallot and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes until shallot is translucent and garlic fragrant. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  3. Add mussels to the pot and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Pour chicken broth and white wine over the mussels and immediately cover pot with lid.  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.  Shake the pan once or twice while cooking (with the lid on) to distribute mussels.
  4. After 5 minutes, the mussels should be fully cooked and open.  If not, return the lid to the pot and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and fresh parsley and give the mussels a good stir. This coats the mussels in the shallots, garlic and broth. Remove and discard any mussels that have not fully opened at this point.
  6. Serve mussels straight out of the pot in the middle of the table, or pour mussels and broth into 4 large bowls. Serve with extra lemon wedges, and crusty bread for mopping up the broth.

Servings: 4 (1 pound per serving)

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette4

 

I have to give you an excuse for going over a month between blog posts.  Would you believe I spent the last month in French Polynesia, retracing the last years of impressionist painter Paul Gauguin?  I wouldn’t either. (I’ll save that for next year.)

How about the fact that my good friend, chef Mario Batali, and I finally fulfilled our mutual dream of culinarily sailing the entire Great Lakes.  We only ate the fish we caught.  We prepared and cooked it all on our 35 foot Catalina sailboat.  Never came in to port for a month. You buy that excuse? (At least that one was regional.)

Or, maybe … just maybe, I got engaged. Yup.  That one’s actually true!

Between the many celebrations, and an actual work conference (my blog isn’t my “job” … yet), my time for posting was a bit gobbled up.  Fear not, my friends.  I’m back in the kitchen.  Excelsior!

Onward and upward, indeed, with this dish.  My, oh my!  Asparagus, hard boiled egg, and bacon … a match made in heaven. (See what I did there? He, he. I couldn’t resist.)  When tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette, this heavenly match becomes even more divine.

When asparagus is in season, buy fresh from the market and use within a day or two.  When asparagus is not in season, easily substitute green beans.  I typically keep hard boiled eggs on hand for an easy grab and go snack.  Thus, this salad comes together in a jiffy.  The minimal ingredient list makes this recipe inexpensive to put together.  A low carb, high protein, gluten-free breakfast / lunch for two.  Cooking for two just got a whole lot easier and a whole lot more meaningful 😉

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon VinaigretteAsparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette1Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette2Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette4

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends discarded and cut on a bias into bite size pieces (substitute green beans in off season)
  • 2-4 hard boiled eggs (how to cook hard boiled eggs), sliced into thirds and seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on a paper towel.  Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.
  2. Discard all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease from skillet. Return skillet to medium heat and add asparagus.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until tender.
  3. Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the asparagus onto 2 plates. Top each plate with equal amounts of crumbled bacon and hard boiled egg slices.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Servings: 2

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad with Chicken

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad2

 

Some of the best memories are made in flip flops … while eating this dish.

Summer’s back.  Time to make Greek tortellini pasta salad.  Here’s my update on the classic Greek salad. I mixed it up by adding cheese tortellini, shredded chicken, and a couple other tid bits.  I’ve always got cheese tortellini on hand for simple weeknight suppers.  Always a crowd (or, just me) pleaser.

I toss the cheese tortellini with chicken breasts (use a rotisserie chicken as a huge time saver), cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and parsley. On the side, I’ll put together a simple homemade Greek salad dressing.  Give it all a toss, and ,dinner is served.  Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Lunch, a simple after workout snack, or even breakfast.  (Yes, I’ve been known to eat leftover pasta salad for breakfast before work. No shame!)

This also works wonderfully for picnics, potlucks, bbqs, or a weeknight meal.  Perfect for summer.  Bright and easy. Just like my favorite pair of flip flops.

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad1Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad3

 

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz cheese tortellini
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), or 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups cucumber (about 1/2 of a hothouse cucumber), peeled, seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and chopped
  • 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 oz block feta cheese, crumbled (I prefer feta packed in brine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Season chicken breasts with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cook for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  Set aside until cool enough to handle and cut into bite sized pieces.  Alternatively, dice 3 cups of rotisserie chicken.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook tortellini in boiling water for 5-7 minutes, or according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.  Set aside and reserve.
  3. Combine cooled tortellini, shredded chicken, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, artichoke hearts, chickpeas and kalamata olives in a large bowl.
  4. Make dressing by combining olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and dried oregano.  Mix well.
  5. Toss salad with the dressing.  Start by adding half of the dressing and add more to suit your taste.
  6. Add feta cheese and fresh parsley.  Toss well and serve.

Note: Salad can be served right away but is best cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Salad will keep well for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad4

Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Strata

Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Strata

 

What’s my key to hosting brunch, you ask?

Everything’s made and prepped in advance.

With this in mind, here’s my go-to brunch recipe – Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Strata.  This dish inherently abides by my “made in advance” rule.  You’re literally SUPPOSED to make and prepare it the night before.  For those unfamiliar with the strata, it’s a savory bread pudding consisting mostly of bread, cheese, and eggs.  My recipe includes sausage and veggies.  The addition of cottage cheese provides a slightly creamy texture.  Hearty and well balanced.  All inclusive … bread, eggs, meat, cheese, veg … all in one dish.

Sausage and Veggie Breakfast StrataSausage and Veggie Breakfast StrataSausage and Veggie Breakfast Strata

 

So it’s the morning of.  All you have to do is roll out of bed, brew coffee, set out bloody mary fixins, turn on the oven, and enjoy.

You’ve got brunch questions.  I’ve got brunch answers.  Simple, tasty answers.

Sausage and Veggie Breakfast Strata

 

Ingredients:

  • Butter, for greasing baking dish
  • 1 loaf day-old Italian bread, crust removed and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups cubed)
  • 1 lb sweet breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled into pieces
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess moisture
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • A small handful fresh basil, torn into pieces (about 1/4 cup)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups half and half (or milk if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Butter a 9×13 inch casserole dish, set aside, and reserve.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cubed bread, cooked sausage, spinach, bell peppers, fontina cheese, and fresh basil.  Toss together well until evenly distributed.  Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish.
  3. In another bowl (I used a large measuring cup) whisk eggs until blended.  Add the half and half, cottage cheese, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  Whisk until smooth, then pour over bread mixture in the casserole dish. (Note, not all of the bread will be covered at this point with the egg mixture. This is fine. As the casserole rests, it will absorb the eggs and become covered.)
  4. Cover the strata/casserole and refrigerate for a few hours or preferably overnight (up to 18 hours).
  5. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Let rest.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and bake the strata/casserole, covered, for 45 minutes.  Remove cover and cook an additional 15 minutes until custard has set and the top is golden brown.  After 1 hour of cooking, if the custard has not set, return the casserole to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. Allow casserole to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Servings: 12

Lazy Ravioli Lasagna

Lazy Lasagna

 

So, you’re in a precarious “situation” with the mafia?  (It happens … I guess)  Cooking up a tasty lasagna would really ease some tensions, right?  Problem is, you’ve got neither the time nor the fresh ingredients for a proper dish. Lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese filling, the timely/messy process of layering of everything together?  Here’s the perfect shortcut.  We’re using frozen cheese ravioli!

So, you’re in the above precarious situation? (Figurative … play along) Here’s whatcha do:

No need to pre boil the noodles or make the ricotta cheese filling.  Simply layer together marinara, frozen cheese ravioli, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Then bake until bubbly and golden.  Lasagna on a mafia pressured weeknight just got a whole lot easier. (Phew!)

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

I had to get somewhat fancy with my marinara sauce.  (I couldn’t help it.)  I added some aromatics and Italian sausage.  If you need to save time, then crack open a jar of store-bought marinara.  In this case, make sure you remember to add 1/2 cup of water.  The ravioli’s need a bit more liquid to cook in.

Your family will think you’ve been slaving away all day.  The guys in velvet sweat suits and greased back hair will think “uncle so and so” made it fresh.

Lazy Lasagna.  Saving family dinner … one meal at a time.

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (leave out to make vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups marinara, store-bought (25 oz jar) or homemade
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp fresh herbs, divided (parsley/basil/rosemary – whatever you have on hand)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 24oz frozen ravioli, I used a spinach and ricotta variety
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add Italian sausage and cook, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.  Once sausage is fully cooked, remove from heat and drain off any excess fat.
  2. Put saute pan with sausage mixture back over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and dried oregano.  Stir well and allow herbs to hit the warm oil to “wake them up.”
  3. Add marinara, water, and 2 tbsp fresh herbs.  Bring to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before assembling lasagna.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with a small amount of vegetable oil or butter.
  6. Time to begin assembling the lasagna.
  7. Add one cup of marinara to prepared casserole dish to coat the bottom.
  8. In the following order, add half of the ravioli, 1.5 cups marinara, 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella, and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  9. Repeat with another layer – the other half of the ravioli, the remainder of the sauce (about a cup and a half), 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  10. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 50 minutes. Note, spray the inside of the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray (or smear with a small amount of vegetable oil) so it does not stick to the cheese.
  11. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  The cheese will be melted and sauce will be bubbling in the corners.  Add 1 tbsp fresh herbs on top and allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before digging in.

Servings: 8 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

My sous chef couldn’t resist the aroma!

Lazy Lasagna

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