August 13, 2009

Turkey and/or Veggie Lasagna in Photos

Posted in Pasta: baked tagged , , , , , at 9:09 pm by jenniec00ks

lasagna 047Phew.  I am blogging my butt off, and I have a BAJILLION pictures of this recipe.  So might as well take advantage of it, this will be a follow the pictures kind of recipe.  I did a turkey AND veggie lasagna, so my 9″x9″ dish was filled to the brim.  I was originally going to do 2 smaller lasagnas, but then I realized I cooked the turkey before the veggies, and therefore contaminated the pot and decided to throw it all together.

Ingredients:

9 x 9 inch glass dish (9×13 would prob work, may need a lil more sauce)
1 box lasagna noodles (9-12, bake/no bake, up to you)
1/2 lb turkey
1 bell pepper (any color will do)
6-7 large mushrooms quartered, ~8 oz.
S&P to taste
5 cloves garlic
3/4 jar (~20 oz) of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup diced onion (or whatever you have around)
1 small container ricotta (15 oz? sorry it’s been a while)
1 large egg
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian white cheese blend*

* Don’t get the 2% or fat-free cheese, it just WON’T MELT!!  >O

Brown the turkey.

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For the vegetarians, cut the bell pepper (click for a link to my new basics posts to keep recipes shorter) and mushrooms into large chunks & dice the onion.

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Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and toss the bell peppers in for a minute or two to give them a head start.  Then toss the mushrooms in and saute them for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms are soft.

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With that extra room on the cutting board, finely dice the 5 cloves of garlic and add them to the pot.  Just as a refresher since I haven’t posted a garlic mincing basic – pull the cloves apart and lay them on your board.  Lay the knife flat on top of each and give the knife (not the blade side) a good whack with your fist.  Then you should be able to pull the paper right off.

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(Click the photos for a larger image.)

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Add it to the pot and give it a stir for a 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.  Then add about 2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce (3/4 of a 24 oz. jar), sorry this amount isn’t more precise.  Also stir in the onions and cover the pan so the sauce can simmer and soften the onions.

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Time to boil the noodles and drain them according to the package.  Or you can skip this step by buying those no-bake ones – so long as you’ve got enough sauce, the no-bake ones are great because they save time, energy AND a pot while not missing any flavor.

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Last step is to beat the egg and ricotta together in a bowl – you can throw in any grated parmesean cheese for extra flavor if you’ve got it around.  Make sure this layer is mixed well!

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Finally, the layering.  Well, better get your oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit right about now.  We’re going to do pasta, ricotta, sauce, shredded cheese.  But we’re actually going to start with an exception, and put an extra layer of sauce on the bottom.  Some say to do it to prevent sticking, but it’s pretty much required if you’re using the no-bake noodles.  If you’ve got boiled noodles, I think it’s optional.

lasagna 033 Sauce at the bottom, still piping hot!

lasagna 034Noodle layer and half of the ricotta/egg mixture.  Don’t need to spread it all that evenly, it will melt in the oven and make a nice layer.

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Sauce, again.  I had veggies + meat in the sauce, but you might want just one or the other.lasagna 037Shredded cheese!

Then we do it again, but use up all the ricotta you’ve got left.

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Then the final layer of pasta, sauce, and shredded cheese for the topping:

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Pop this heavy sucker into the oven for ~45 minutes (uncovered!) or until the cheese is golden brown.  I put it on a foiled sheet pan in case anything boiled over, it didn’t mess up the oven.

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w00t! Golden brown! Time to eat!

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May 27, 2009

Chili Pasta in Photos

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , , at 8:47 pm by jenniec00ks

chilipasta 008So this past Memorial Day weekend I was at home with some big appetites to feed.  This recipe will feed 4-6 people.  The picture on the left was taken after 2-3 helpings were gone.  Most all of my other recipes are really designed for 2 servings (I eat one for dinner and bring the other to work the next day).  While this recipe can be enjoyed piping hot, it also tastes great at room temperature; and can easily be made in proportions to feed an army.

My mom found the original recipe in a Cooking Light magazine, but here’s how I made it.

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Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 box of wagon wheel pasta
8 oz. can of tomato sauce
14.5 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes (they’re becoming more common these days)
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium white)
1 can of pinto beans (~14 oz?)
2 cups water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chili powder*
1 tsp ground cumin*
1 tsp dried oregano*

* Don’t forget – if you don’t keep these spices on hand, try to find bulk bins that seem to be growing more popular at local grocery stores. I get mine from HEB, Sprouts, or Central Market.

For this recipe, you’re going to want to use a saucepan that you have a cover for.  If none of your pans have a cover, you can use a large piece of foil if you must.

ChiliPasta 002Add a teaspoon of oil over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, and ground turkey.  I really like the taste and lack of fat in ground turkey – but if you must use ground beef that’s any less than 96% lean, you probably don’t need the oil to begin.  And you probably should drain the fat after this step.

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Anyway, season this mixture with salt and pepper to taste if you’d like.  Cook until the turkey is fully cooked (see above).  Then add the oregano, chili powder, cumin, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the pinto beans.  Give this a stir for ~1 minute.

ChiliPasta 004Then add the 2 cups of water and 1/2 the box of pasta.  Let this come to a simmer, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low (enough to keep a simmer though).  Let this bubble for about 18 minutes or until the pasta is soft.

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Dish into bowls and top with your favorite cheese – I had a cheddar and monterey jack blend on hand and it blended well with the flavors.  As a side note, you can double the chili powder portion to 4 teaspoons of chili powder if you like it spicy.

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

April 22, 2009

Baked Ziti in Photos

Posted in Pasta: baked tagged , at 10:23 pm by jenniec00ks

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

This baked ziti has evolved from a mesh of recipes I looked up several years ago.  It’s very easy on the budget and easily adaptable.  I actually have someone who’s already duplicated this recipe without photos, it’s just that easy.  It’s also great for parties and potlucks because you can feed an army with minimal additional work.  If you’re not sure what I mean by that, imagine the time it takes to toss more ingredients in a pan versus rolling out 30 more meatballs for an couple extra dinner guests.  This recipes also got a *ton* of pictures since my sister was operating the camera while I cooked at home (you’ll see the kitchen’s different).

prep-003I made this recipe in a 8×8 inch square dish, but you can use up all the ingredients in the picture if you’ve got a 9×13″ dish (& the people to help you eat it).  Aside from the usual salt/pepper/garlic powder – you’ll need a can/jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (~3 cups or 26oz), 8 oz of cheese, 1/2 an onion, ~3/4 lb. of ground turkey (half the package shown), and ~1/2 lb. of ziti (or rigatoni or penne) pasta.  Feel free to mix it up to your tastes, you might like less cheese, more onion, a higher meat to pasta ratio, or even some roasted vegetables instead of the turkey (remind me to make a note about that later).

prep-046First get some water on to boil 1/2 lb. of pasta; I like to use a 5-6 qt pot about half full, but you could probably get by with a tall 2 qt pot almost full (leave an inch so it doesn’t boil over, and stir so cooks evenly).  When the water comes to a boil, throw half the box in and cook for 10 minutes, or 2 minutes shorter than the box says.  So I promised I’d show you how to dice an onion in photos – or at least how I’ve learned from Giada/Bobby.  If you’ve got a better/faster way to do it, please disregard and skip right to browning the turkey!

prep-010Cut off the top and bottom of the onion.prep-011Make a shallow cut down the side.prep-013Peel the papery layer off the onion.  If the layer underneath doesn’t look so good, then you can pull that too, but it’s not necessary.prep-016

Cut the onion in half and lets start dicing!  We’re going to make several cuts in 3 different directions.prep-017Step 1.  Leave the onion connected at the end farthest from the knife (the part where my fingers are holding the onion)prep-021Another view of the onion after step 1.prep-022Step 2.  The cuts are horizontal, with the knife parallel to the cutting board.  Keep your fingers out the way by pressing down on the top of onion.prep-030Finally, make the third cut and you’ve got nicely sized pieces 🙂prep-032Since they’re still connected at the edge, I give that extra piece a rough chop; holding the tip of the knife steady.

prep-0551Preheat a dry saucepan (or wok) over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Might want to use one that has a cover since tomato sauce splatters quite a bit when it simmers.  When the pan is preheated, add half the ground turkey from the package and brown it (just like you would ground beef).  Season the turkey with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to your liking.  Once the meat is brown, pour in the spaghetti sauce, add about 1/3 cup of water to the can (or jar), and pour that in too.

prep-0661Stir the onions into the pan, cover it, and turn the heat down to medium.  Simmer until the onions are soft, it usually takes about 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta whenever it’s ready.  Ideally, it should be done about the same time as the meatsauce.  Get the oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while you layer the dish – sauce, pasta, cheese, sauce, pasta, (any extra sauce), and cheese.

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Sauce

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Pasta

Cheese

Cheese

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Sauce layer 2

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Pasta layer 2

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Extra sauce if you've got

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Cheese topping

prep-114Then tent the top of the dish with foil and put it in the oven for ~30 minutes.  After that, remove the foil and return the ziti to the oven for an extra 15 minutes to brown the top.  and Voila!  Enjoy!

So that side note if you want to change it up – the turkey can easily be swapped out for beef for whatever reason you want.  I think ground turkey tastes different and gives it a good flavor, but it can be more expensive if it’s not on sale that week.  If you want to go the vegetarian route, roast 2 cups of your favorite vegetables chopped into 1 inch pieces at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and add that to the sauce instead of the turkey.  I’d recommend bell peppers, onions, zucchini or yellow squash (summer squashes), and/or mushrooms.  I’ve also tried broccoli, asparagus, and green beans; which are good, but not fabulous.