Mini Meatloaf with Russett Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

 

15826793_10208123935069328_5613085375040848871_n.jpgHappy New Year!

I know, I know. I went almost three months without blogging. Believe me–I have not gone all this time without cooking, but I haven’t had a minute to write, and I am sorry! Around this time last year I started this blog, and it was my resolution then to share my recipes with the world. I want to continue that promise to you.

Now I’ve spoken with a few friends of mine, and they have suggested I do a video demonstration as well–this may be in the future! If you have any food requests/techniques you would like to be explained, particularly in video format, let me know.

I made so many meals since I’ve last blogged, and I wasn’t sure where to begin, so what I decided to do was to just post what I made tonight. It’s a top 10 for my husband; it’s a secret family recipe that I have modified. It’s also now freezing cold, and now that Christmas is over, people are using their ovens for comfort foods and not for cookies.

Now if you are a resolutionist, by all means, you can still make this. I made this in a miniature format so that you can have tasty, indulgent meal without the guilt. It is portioned appropriately. If you’re not dieting, then go for seconds and enjoy its cute presentation.

I love meatloaf; it is reminiscent of my childhood for sure. I also think of Wedding Crashers when Will Ferrell screams, “Ma! The meatloaf!” I am pretty sure I said the same thing because it was one of those cult favorites of my own mother. I am convinced that she makes the best! I am sure your mother is some stiff competition, too. 😉

When I first moved out and lived on my own a while back, I wanted to learn how to make my grandmother’s meatballs and my mother’s meatloaf without them. So I asked for recipes…and man, they’re secretive. Once I uncovered the classified information, I was left to my own devices in terms of figuring out how much. Terms like “a bit,” ” a squirt,”, and “a little of that” gave me hardly any help. Luckily, I have an innate sense and a whole lot of dedication to bring you forth the never before disclosed, sworn to secrecy meatloaf. 🙂

The meatloaf is super tasty, moist, and addictive. 

The mashed potatoes I make are delicious and easy. My two best friends for these ‘taters are my slow cooker and my stand mixer.

For everyone that knows me, I make complicated meals. I’ll spend hours to get something right. Shoot, I ground my own chuck this week with bacon and garlic. Cooking is my hobby and not just a necessity. However, time is of the essence, and this recipe is one of those quick meals that can be made that is impressive and elegant enough for one to be fooled into thinking it’s complex and time consuming.

Let’s get started!

First, worry about your potatoes. I use my slow cooker because it makes the potatoes tender, and I can prep them in less than five minutes. No boiling, no peeling (unless you hate skins, but I think they’re tasty and rustic looking), no waiting. If you have a slow cooker that goes to a “warm” setting automatically, that is best, especially if you are trying to do prep before you go to work. You need four hours on high in a slow cooker for these bad boys.

The meatloaf is prepped together in about three minutes and cooks in about 35 minutes. You add a little of this, and a little of that, and that’s it! 🙂

Ingredients for Step One (Slow Cooker Step)

5-6 Russet potatoes (if you like them fluffy, or you may use Yukon Golds or red potatoes, but I recommend Russet)

2 cups of water (you may substitute chicken broth, but it’s not totally necessary)

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder (approximately a tablespoon of each in the slow cooker)

Ingredients for Step Two (Final Mixing Step)

1 cup of half and half, warmed in the microwave (you may substitute whole milk, but the more fat, the better!)

3/4 stick of butter (softened)

1 cup of sour cream

Green onions/chives for garnish (optional!)

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar

Directions for Mashed Potatoes

Slow Cooking Procedure

1.) Wash and scrub your potatoes. Leave the skin on (unless you don’t like it, in which you can peel them.) Slice the potatoes in half, then in half again, then cut into small 1 inch pieces.

2.) Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Put all diced potatoes into slow cooker. Throw salt, pepper, and garlic powder all over potatoes. Stir to spread seasoning evenly.

3.) Add 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of water to cover potatoes.

4.) Put your slow cooker on HIGH for four hours, until the potatoes are fork tender. If you are making this all day, try to use a slow cooker that has a warm setting so that it can switch to this setting after cooking.

Stand Mixer Procedure

1.) If you have a stand mixer, grab the mixing bowl that goes with your mixer and scoop out all the potatoes. Put the potatoes in the mixer bowl. Make sure the potatoes are fork tender before doing this step! Alternatively, if you have a hand mixer, you can mix the potatoes right in the slow cooker! 🙂

2.) Microwave a cup of half and half (or milk of your choice) about 30-45 seconds until hot. Soften butter in microwave, in five second intervals, if not already softened.

3.) Throw the butter into the mixing bowl. Crack salt and pepper approximately four times for each seasoning. Being mixing on medium speed for about 20-30 seconds.

4.) Once the half and half is heated, slowly pour in the liquid so the potatoes absorb the liquid. Mix another 20-30 seconds and then stop. Potatoes will be creamy with a few lumps. Do not overmix–potatoes can becoming gummy in texture!

5.) Take your mixing bowl out. Add sour cream, cheddar, and optional green onions/chives. Mix lightly. Keep warm in your slow cooker if not serving right away.

Feel free to add more cheddar on top! 🙂

Ingredients for the Meatloaf 

1 1/2-2 pounds of Beef, Pork, and Veal Ground Meat**

**(I ground my own meat this time; if you have a food grinder and you feel ambitious, grind up 2 pounds of chuck, five slices of bacon, and five garlic cloves).

***You can also just use ground beef, if you so choose, but the mixture of pork and veal helps with moisture.

3 eggs (if you are making less,  say 1/2 pound to a 1 pound of meat, you can use 2 eggs)

1 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix

1/2 cup of ketchup, plus a little more for the “glaze”

1/4 cup of Peter Luger Sauce ****

****–It’s so delicious, but if you can’t find it, here’s a copycat recipe.

Jar of Heinz Au Jus (Beef), or make brown gravy of your choice

1/2 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Freshly cracked salt and pepper, about three of each

Directions for Meatloaf

1.) Preheat your oven 350 degrees. Take out a baking pan of your choice and spray the inside with cooking spray. I recommend an 8 by 8 for 4 servings, or a 9 by 13 for 6-8 servings.

2.) In a large mixing bowl, hand mix (lightly) the ground meat, eggs, onion soup mix.

3.) Next, squirt in your ketchup, peter luger sauce, and a little of the au jus/brown gravy (about 1/4 of a cup or so). Do not overmix.

4.) Add the seasoned bread crumbs and continue to mix with your hands. The mixture should be moist, but it should be able to take hold of a shape. Add bread crumbs as needed, but this is very moist so do not add too much!

5.) Using your spoon, divide your meat into even portions (4-8, depending on how much you are making). Each mini meatloaf should be approximately a heavy fistful.

6.) On your baking pan, mold the portion of meat between your two hands, making sure it is in the shape of a loaf. Squeeze the side of the mini meatloaf with your hands on the outside and push it inward to mold it properly. Using a flat hand, push down the top of the loaf to make it flat and even. Mold as you feel fit.

7.) Make the rest of the mini meatloaves, giving at least an inch or two of space in between.

8.) Before putting the meatloaves in the oven, make the glaze. Mix about 3-4 squirts of ketchup, two-three tablespoons of brown sugar, and a dash of Peter Luger sauce. Mix together and place on top of the meatloaf. You may use a spoon for this step or you may use a little pastry brush.

9.) Put the mini meatloaves in the oven for approximately 35 minutes.

10.) Enjoy! Scoop out your delicious mashed potatoes and meatloaf on a dish. Garnish with more sliced green onions! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Southern Style Crab Cake Melt with Cheddar, Remoulade, and Roasted Asparagus

SouthernCrabCake.jpg

Happy Tuesday!

I apologize for not posting; I’ve been overwhelmed between preparing to move, ending my school year, and so on. But no more excuses–I am here to stay!

I prepared this recipe yesterday to help my neighbor Jennifer with her “Surf and Turf” themed Memorial Day party. She was dead set on us making a ceviche, but I know that I am not one that likes to experiment on a large group of people. The little experience I have with ceviche tells me that I should 1.) get the freshest seafood ever and 2.) I need enough acid/time to marinate the fish. And so, I encouraged her to let me go with one of my favorite things to eat instead…crab!

I love crab cakes, crab legs with drawn butter, soft-shell crab, she-crab soup, or a crab gnocchi bake; Zach and I could devour Snow Crab, in particular, for days. Crab has such a distinct sweetness and flavor that it is totally undeniable. Crab cakes are definitely a weakness of mine, but they’re often…mediocre. I’ve had them out and have been disappointed. They can be dry, loaded with fillers (and thus, very little crab), and quite frankly, unaffordable for the average person dining out.

It’s one of the more expensive items you can purchase in a restaurant, and it may be an item you are afraid to make yourself because..

1.) It’s costly–chicken, anyone?

2.) It’s seafood–frightening for some.

But trust me when I say it isn’t that scary at all! And while I agree it’s not the cheapest meal to make, it’s so worth it. For this recipe, I use good quality canned crab (Phillips’). Yes, you could use fresh crab. Sure, you can cook your own crab and pick them to pieces, but you’ll die of starvation by the time you’re finished. Good quality canned crab is appropriate for this dish!

You should make this if you’re a crab lover and/or you’re looking to impress. Even if you’re not entertaining a few guests, this recipe can be easily even made for a single person (yes, you read that right), so that you can make yourself a 15 minute meal that tastes divine.

Now I have a “holiday” crab cake recipe I make, and I also make a salmon cake that is similar to the recipe I am providing here. This crab cake melt, however, is less fuss. When you’re cooking for a crowd, you don’t want complicated. You want tasty and easy, and this is perfectly that.

From all my experiences making seafood cakes (I’ve made tons), the best base has…

1.) Creamy components (Mayo, Sour Cream, and/or Remoulade)

2.) Butter Crackers (Like Club or Ritz)

3.) Sautéed Diced Peppers and/or Onions

Sure, you can make a deep fried one with typical breading (Panko or Italian-Style), but I don’t think that does anything to actually accentuate the natural taste of the crab cake. I personally (and for this recipe) broil, not fry the crab cakes. The flavor is much more prominent, and I believe the crushed cracker breading approach creates the right texture.

Now what heightens this dish (without taking away the excellent seafood flavor) is the cheddar that is melted. This crab cake melt, as the name implies, involves smothering the crab cake in gooey cheese on top of a split English muffin. It’s amazing! The first time I had a Crab Cake Melt was in Downtown Wilmington, NC. Not only was it fantastic, but it was only $9.99 at an awesome place called Paddy’s Hollow.

For the price of two crab cakes at the aforementioned restaurant, you can serve a hearty appetizer for 12, so let’s get started! Again, this recipe can easily be scaled down to a romantic meal for two, so don’t feel the need to invite company over…

Because I doubt you’ll want to share. 🙂

Ingredients for Side Dish: Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of fresh Asparagus
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Ingredients for Remoulade (Make first to add to your crab cake mixture!)

    • 3 cups mayonnaise (or sour cream!)
    • ½ cup Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
    • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I like Cholula!)
    • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend** (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup, plus more if needed
    • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
    • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
    • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
    • 2 tablespoons finely diced celery
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 tablespoon finely diced green onion tops
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Crab Cake for 2 (Multiply most ingredients by 6 to create 12!)

  • 2.5-3 ounces of lumped crab meat (canned)
  • 3 tablespoon of sour cream (or mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (Cholula or Sriracha works for me!)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/6th of a sleeve of Club Crackers, crushed finely (if you’re making for 12, use a whole sleeve)
  • 1 beaten egg** (for 12 servings, I only needed 2-3 large eggs to bind!)
  • 3 sliced and diced jarred roasted sweet bell peppers OR 3 sliced and diced sweet MINI bell peppers (you must sauté beforehand) FINELY DICED
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of homemade Remoulade (P.S: If you don’t have time, you can buy this, too–but fresh is best!)

For serving…

  • 1 split English muffin (or 1 package of English muffins for company; I recommend Thomas’ English muffins)
  • 2 slices of Cheddar cheese

 

Directions for Side Dish: Roasted Asparagus

  1. Slice off woody ends of fresh asparagus.
  2. On a sheet pan, evenly spread out asparagus. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Once oven is preheated to 400 degrees, cook for 10 minutes. Do not cook it any longer than that! If you’re serving this for company, cook the asparagus last.

Remoulade Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise or sour cream. Whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire, hot sauce, seasoning blend, paprika, lemon juice, and horseradish. Add the ketchup and whisk together. Add more ketchup as needed to get the pink coloring necessary.
  2. Once the color is achieved, add in the garlic, capers, relish, celery, parsley, and green onion. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Crab Cakes Directions

  1. First, slice and dice your sweet bell peppers very finely. If your peppers are not jarred (in other words, fresh peppers), sauté them in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire. Stir until soft and fragrant. Put aside to cool–do not add to mixture until cooled as you are adding them to eggs! You don’t want scrambled eggs, do you now? 🙂
  2. Once the peppers are cooled (or if they’re jarred, simply diced), add them to a bowl. Next, add the canned crab, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, mayo/sour cream, beaten egg(s), and remoulade. Over the sink, pulverize your cracker sleeve finely. You may use a food processor if you don’t feel like smashing the crackers yourself. Tip: Use your index finger and thumb to break up large pieces! Once the crackers are crushed, add them to the mixture. Stir lightly to combine; don’t overmix! Make sure your mixture looks nice and moist. If it doesn’t look super moist, add a little bit more remoulade, sour cream, and Dijon mustard.
  3. Next, split your English muffins in half. Toast your English muffins about halfway.
  4. Once the English muffins are toasted, place sliced cheddar on the bottom of each English muffin half.
  5. On top of the cheddar, scoop out a generous amount of crab cake mixture  that will eventually be distributed on each English muffin slice. You don’t have to shape it with your hands–simply plop on top.
  6. **Alternatively, you can place the cheddar on top of the crab cake depending on how particular you are about presentation! If the cheese slice is too large, you’re better off putting the cheese on the bottom.
  7. When ready to serve (and remember, these can be made ahead), broil for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Serve with remoulade on top!

 

 

 

Thyme and Rosemary T-Bone Steak with Potatoes and Broccoli

13000282_10206201178601618_8624191865594800461_n

Happy Saturday!

I don’t think there is a meal out there that is more satisfying than a steak. To be honest, I eat burgers more than I eat steaks, but when I do have a hunch for a steak, I just have to have it!

I have a fairly good amount of experience with steak and flavor combinations as I worked in a steakhouse as a waitress. I have had my share in making dry rubs, wet marinades, savory toppings like bleu cheese crumbles and caramelized onions. In addition, my father always had a keen sense for how steak should taste (he’s partial to Prime Rib).  Honestly, there isn’t much that is necessary for a delicious steak, but what will sure kill its flavor is overcooking it.

I apologize if I offend anyone, but you really should not be eating steak over medium rare. I love rare to medium rare (believe it or not–I range depending on the cut of steak!) I know that the blood for some people is too much, but really–eating carcinogenic charcoal is a lot more unnerving to me personally. To me, the flavor of the steak comes through when it’s prepared the proper way.

There are many cuts of steak I love to prepare, but I think one of the most romantic cuts (that is, a steak you can split for two), is a T-Bone steak. What I love about the T-Bone is that it’s two different steaks inside one. One half is a New York Strip and the other half is a Filet Mignon. The only problem with cooking a T-Bone steak is that the Filet Mignon, because it’s much smaller in proportion to the New York Strip, will naturally cook more quickly than its counterpart. This is only good is your significant other likes slightly more cooked meat and is partial to the Filet, but if you are sharing equally, you need to be thoughtful to how you prepare your steak with the challenges presented: two different meats, and a bone. Steak on the bone has definitely more flavor, but with the bone inside, the steak will be rarer near the bone and thus appear uneven.

I used to get really pissed off when customers would send a T-Bone back at my job; they would eat almost their entire steak, and then bam! They would cut near the bone and freak out when they saw a little blood. If only these patrons knew that the bone is blocking the distribution of heat hence the rarer inside. Ugh. At least now you know! Knowledge is power.

This meal is great if you are looking to cook a simple, romantic dinner for two.

I decided to make this mostly foolproof by using a few tricks…

1.) The steak is “reverse seared” which means it’s slow cooked in the oven for a short amount of time and THEN seared in a hot, cast iron skillet. Many times, people try to sear the outside first and then finish in the oven, but there is less consistency. If you want more control, this is the method for you.

2.) I used my microwave for my vegetables. Sue me. They taste wonderfully.

3.) Even though I use a few short cuts, I am ultimately using the freshest ingredients: the best meat I can find, fresh herbs versus dried (sorry!), and freshly cracked pepper and salt to form that wonderful crust.

Alright, enough talking. Let’s eat!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound T-Bone Steak (or any other steak of your choice)
  • 1 Steamable Potato Bag (go for petite potatoes or even red potatoes)
  • 1 Steamable Broccoli Bag
  • Four cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (salted or unsalted–your call)
  • Fresh thyme (at least 5 sprigs)
  • Fresh rosemary (at least two sprigs)
  • Freshly cracked salt and pepper (no table salt!)

Meat and Greet

  1. Take your steak out of the refrigerator so it comes to room temperature. Lay it out on a plate and add salt and pepper liberally. With a garlic press, smash four cloves of garlic and press them deeply into the steak.To infuse the steak with herby flavor, take off thyme leaves and rosemary leaves. You will remove these herbs before cooking.
  2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Get a wire rack and baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
  3. While you’re waiting for the oven to pre-heat, make your potatoes. Get olive oil, thyme and rosemary leaves (about 1 sprig of each–more to taste) and rub them on all the potatoes before microwaving. Throw the potatoes in the microwave (it’s usually about 8 minutes) once they are all evenly coated. You may need to microwave them again to make them fork tender (about another 2-3 minutes.)
  4. Once the oven is pre-heated, put the seasoned steak on the rack (take off the herbs). Cook the steak in the oven (flipping mid way through) for about 30 minutes (could be more if the steak is really thick–look at it every 10-15 minutes to be careful!)
  5. Take the steak out and let it rest. In the meantime, heat up your cast iron skillet with 1 ounce of Canola oil (it has a high smoke point) on medium high heat.
  6. Once the skillet is hot enough, sear the steak on about 2-3 minutes per side until a crust forms (this will create a medium rare). Towards the end, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and throw in some whole thyme and rosemary sprigs for aromatics. Baste the steak in the melted butter. Remove the aromatics (the sprigs) after about two minutes.
  7. Let the steak rest. As the steak is resting on the rack, microwave your steamable broccoli. Once the broccoli is done (about 5 minutes), add salt and pepper.
  8. You may re-heat your potatoes in the microwave on a plate with leftover thyme/rosemary leaves, or you may crisp the potatoes up in the already hot cast iron skillet–your choice!
  9. Slice thinly to share, or you may split the Filet Migon from the New York Strip. Your choice! 🙂

 

 

Spinach, Mozzarella, and Ricotta Pie

 

SpinachMozzarellaandRicottaPie.jpgHappy Monday!

If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be Spanakopita, the Greek spinach pie that is layered in heavily buttered phyllo. I will post that recipe…eventually. That’s almost like my tiramisu recipe: it’s top secret. I need to see some real commitment on behalf of my viewers before I unveil this Greek aristocracy.

I seriously have an obsession with spinach! I eat it often as a salad (one of my favorites is grilled chicken, goat cheese crumbles, crushed walnuts/pecans, and dried cranberries/orange cutie pieces with pear gorgonzola dressing). I eat it as a side dish (like a classic creamed spinach), and I’ll eat it in a pie–any pie–phyllo or Pillsbury. I don’t discriminate when it comes to Popeye and I’s favorite.

Speaking of Pillsbury, I took a shortcut today and used a ready made crust. I am all for making homemade everything, even when it’s not necessary. Feel free to be complicated like I usually am, but unfortunately, time is my kryptonite today!

I am not going to say that this Spinach pie replaces my aforementioned, beloved, Spanakopita, but if you’re looking for comfort and ease, this is the recipe for you.

  • 1 box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (alternatively, you could use another brand, or your own homemade)–make sure you have two crusts!
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoon flour
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed out dry (I also added two cups of fresh spinach because I had some leftover! Spinach always wilts, so feel free to add more if you have it!)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste–approximately 1.5 tablespoons of each)
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional–it’s an acquired taste! Please don’t add too much!)
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (maybe more)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I always do more–oops)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten- plus 1 extra egg for brushing on the pastry crust.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In the meantime, prep your onion (diced) and garlic (minced).
  3. In a saute pan, heat to medium high heat and add combination of olive oil and butter for onions. Stir occasionally.
  4. Add small amounts of water every two minutes (about two tablespoons) so the onions become translucent more quickly.
  5. Once the onions are almost caramelized and translucent, add the minced garlic. Stir around–don’t burn the garlic! It’s a sin.
  6. Next, add your spinach. If you’re using fresh, cover the saute pan with a lid for a minute–it’ll expedite the wilting process of the spinach. Be sure to stir the spinach, onions, and garlic so nothing burns. If it gets too hot, take it off the burner.
  7. Cool the mixture for a few minutes (or if you have no time, add everything below EXCEPT the egg–you don’t want to cook eggs.)
  8. In a bowl, mix the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese.  Fold in the 2 beaten eggs and blend well. Set aside. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg** (nutmeg is acquired) to taste.
  9. Unfold the pie crusts. Butter your pie pan/cast iron pan. Sprinkle surface with flour and press or roll out fold lines with rolling pin.  If crust cracks, wet fingers and push edges together to seal. Place crust, floured side down, in 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish to cast iron pan.
  10. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Top with second crust, fold edges under and crimp decoratively. I seriously used a nightlight (that I bought at the dollar store) to create a design. Feel free to use a cookie cutter to make it more elegant (like an open face pie with leaves over the top; I think that would be beautiful!)
  11. Beat the extra egg with a teaspoon of water then brush (with pastry brush) the outside of the crust with the egg mixture. You do not need the whole egg mixture!
  12. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake until brown on top, about 40-50 minutes (but check on it every 10-15 minutes.) Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting. Devour politely. 🙂

 

 

Spinach Ricotta Lasagna Cupcakes

spinachcupcakes

Happy Monday!

Did you make my tortellini filling last week and find yourself in a similar conundrum to me? You know, you made so much that you could start an assembly line akin to the Model T? If you made the tortellinis and also had leftover Won Ton Wrappers, then this is the recipe for you! Even if you have no idea what recipe I am talking about, make these cupcakes; they are two-three bite lasagnas that are too cute and tasty to pass up.

Leftovers are often boring; instead, you should look to repurpose your ingredients. Create last night’s extra ingredients into something else you would not expect. Surprise yourself, or if you’re too nervous, troll through Pinterest and hope you find something worth while.

Speaking of inspiration, you may want to consider this for the Hallmark holiday that is embarking. As Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I really think this would be a great recipe to make for your loved one. Nothing says love like lasagna. The problem is that lasagna isn’t really an intimate dish; when you make lasagna, it’s usually to feed a family…and then some.

This recipe can be made as fast or as slowly as you want; if you have a tomato sauce on hand and a filling created, you can assemble your cupcakes in about five minutes, and you only need to bake them for about 10-12 minutes; dinner could be ready in less than a half an hour. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to make an elaborate sauce/filling, go for it. I promise you that it will still be easier than traditional lasagna. This is a great weeknight recipe for its speed, and it’s a great special occasion recipe (I think particularly for an appetizer) because of its elegant presentation (that takes no creativity at all!)

This recipe makes intimate, individual lasagna cupcakes for you and your honey bun. Now, I will not sell this recipe as equivalent to its homely counterpart. It is certainly not as hearty and hefty in its layers.  The recipe I am providing is meatless for you vegetarians out there unlike a typical lasagna that has crumbled sausage and/or ground beef. Feel free, however, to change the filling so it can resemble Garfield’s guilty pleasure. 🙂 And if you’re still dieting from the holidays, you’ll be happy to know that these bad-boys are fairly good calorically; these lasagna cupcakes fare at about 180 calories a piece. These are practically guiltless so you eat all the chocolate you want!

One day, when I am looking for that Sunday project, I will post a recipe for my family’s tried and true family-style lasagna.

Stay tuned–P.S: I will be going Italian the rest of the week: Chicken Parmigiana with Homemade Plum Tomato Basil Sauce and Kahlua and Bacardi Tiramisu (my absolute favorite recipe of Tiramisu; I almost don’t want to tell you about it 🙂 )

Spinach Ricotta Filling

  • 12 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 1-1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmigiana (I always add more!)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of Finely Shredded Mozzarella
  • 1 whole Egg
  • Salt and Pepper to your taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional, but recommended)
  • 3-4 cups of arugula or spinach (your choice! you can do it without leafy greens)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic** (only if you are sautéing spinach or arugula; I prefer spinach of the two for the filling)
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley and/or basil (mixed is fabulous: and fresh is best!)

Spinach Ricotta Filling Instructions…

  1. In a pan, heat up 1-2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Mince some garlic (3-4 cloves) and put in the pan that has olive oil.
  3. Throw in spinach (handfuls at a time) until it wilts. Repeat until all spinach is incorporated. Be sure to be stirring often so garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Put spinach aside and give it about 5-10 minutes for cooling.
  5. Next, get a large mixing bowl. Take ricotta out of the container and add the cheeses. Stir.
  6. Next, throw in the sautéed spinach and mix. Next, beat one egg and throw into mixture.
  7. Mix well. Taste a small bit and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in nutmeg, if desired.

Quick Meat Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links, casing removed
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, homemade, or store-bought
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Quick Meat Filling Instructions…

  • Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and stir in marinara sauce.
  • Season ricotta cheese with salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.  I would also add grated parmigiana cheese (about 1/2 cup.) Nutmeg works nicely here as well (very sparingly.)

Speed Demons (use in both recipes)

  • 24 2-inch won ton wrappers (I use the round Gyoza wrappers)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmigiana cheese
  • Optional: Fresh/frozen basil and/or flat-leaf Italian parsley (approximately a teaspoon per cupcake)

All Together Now

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 12-cup standard muffin tin or coat with nonstick spray like Pam.
  • Create your choice of filling (see above.) Keep this aside.
  • Fit wonton wrappers into each of the 12 muffin tins, pressing carefully to make sure there is an opening in the center. Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese. Top with 1 tablespoon marinara mixture and 1 tablespoon mozzarella cheese; repeat with one more layer.
  • Place into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the wonton wrappers are golden brown.
  • If available, place chiffonade basil on top while the cupcakes are cooling. This will add last minute flavor. Alternatively, if you have frozen basil, you could add a small amount to each cupcake. Additionally, sprinkle with some grated parmigiana to cover the top layer.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with some parsley, if desired (or just basil is fine–you need something green.)

Note: Do not reheat these; the won-ton wrapper gets soggy, so this must be eaten immediately and not wait the next day! If you want something sturdier, you can alternatively purchase a no-bake lasagna noodle and invert one noodle vertically around the inside of the cupcake for support of the filling.

 

 

Yellow Curry Shrimp with Garam Masala Spiced Coconut Milk

YELLOWCURRY.jpg

Happy Saturday!

Zach told me I had to make something Indian last night. I haven’t been feeling well and didn’t necessarily want to be a slave at the stove last night. How did I meet in the middle? I made my yellow curry in a hurry!

What make this so simple is that I am cooking shrimp as my protein; feel free to substitute chicken or another light fish, but shrimp complements this dish well and cooks in approximately 3 minutes.

This dish does not require anything absurdly obscure to make delicious. Yes, I used good ol’ fashioned McCormick curry powder; nothing “authentic” or specific to make you feel discouraged from making this. The optional ingredients here you may have handy, or you may not, but don’t feel the need to go out of your way. To make the sauce, you essential need curry powder, sautéed onion and garlic, honey, hot sauce, and coconut milk. These are all what you may already have or very accessible. The prep time is minimal, and the taste is fabulous. From start to finish, you could have dinner done in 20 minutes. Because my post is all about speed, I will stop writing about how wonderful it is and let you get to it! 🙂

In a Flash

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (shoot for larger shrimp for maximum flavor)** (also they could be frozen)
  • 1 whole medium yellow onion diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons of minced/finely grated ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon or more of curry powder (to taste)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Garam Masala (optional, but I love it!)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (make sure it’s full fat and from a can–you need the thick consistency)
  • 2 tablespoons of honey (but probably if you like sweeter curries)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (or more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper (or more)
  • 1 -2 teaspoon(s) of red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli florets** (you can use any green vegetable you like such as peas, but I like the florets with the sauce)
  • 1 lime juiced (optional, but I like it!)
  • 1 tablespoon or so of Sriracha or any other hot sauce
  • 12 whole basil leaves chiffonade (sliced thinly into ribbons)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice (any rice is fine, but basmati screams Indian!)

The Need for Speed

  1. First, get a cold bowl of water and put frozen shrimp in the bowl. If desired, add some salt to water. This is a great way to thaw the shrimp will retaining tenderness through a light brine. In the meantime, measure out two cups of Basmati rice and cook to directions (usually a 1:2 ratio) with salt and butter (or olive oil).
  2. Meanwhile, do your prep: diced your onion finely and mince garlic and ginger.
  3. Heat up a pan with olive oil or butter on medium high heat. Cook the shrimp about 2 minutes or so until they turn pink and are no longer translucent. Make sure you don’t overcook the shrimp! Put the shrimp aside on a plate while you prepare the sauce in the same pan.
  4. Next, add the diced onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add about a tablespoon or so of water to the pan to make the onions extra soft. Repeat as necessary (but do not add too much water!) Next, add the ginger and stir around for a minute. Lastly, add the garlic (do not burn the garlic.)
  5. Once all of the aromatics are in the pan, throw curry powder on them and stir. Cook for a minute, and then open up a can of coconut milk. Stir around to incorporate everything. Turn the heat up on the stove to medium high to let the sauce bubble up. Once the sauce is heated through, put on a lower setting. While the sauce is cooling slightly, heat up frozen microwave to directions (I did about 3 minutes). Throw shrimp and broccoli into the sauce.
  6. Stir into your sauce chiffonaded basil, honey, squeeze lime, Sriracha sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir around and adjust seasonings to taste. Right before serving, add optional Garam Masala (if you add it too early, it will lose all flavor so make sure you do it at the end.)
  7. Add rice to the bottom of a bowl and pour on top the sauce and shrimp. devour immediately.