As every Southern woman knows, a casserole can cure everything from a cold to a broken heart.  It’s one of my favorite roles at church, being part of the Casserole Brigade. This lasagna recipe (or a version similar) makes a frequent appearance because it is easy to assemble and deliver, and then your friend can bake it whenever they are ready for supper.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 jar of fancy tomato sauce — I used Gina Rispoli Arrabiata Sauce
1 28oz can of organic diced tomatoes
2 Mild Italian Chicken Sausages
Barilla No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
1 zucchini sliced into thin discs
15oz part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella

How I Made It

Prepare a deep baking dish with a quick spray of olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic together until tender. Squeeze the sausage from the casing into the skillet, then break it up with a spoon so that there are no big pieces. Brown the sausage with the peppers and onions, stirring frequently so that the vegetables don’t burn.

When the sausage is cooked through, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cover and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Combine the ricotta and parmesan together in a bowl.

To assemble the lasagna, start by putting a little sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Lay the lasagna noodles side by side in the bottom.  Spread a layer of ricotta — not too thin and not too thick — over the noodles.  Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Add another layer of noodles, then ricotta, then the zucchini slices. Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Continue with these layers until you reach the top of the baking dish.

Lasagna

You can freeze or refrigerate the lasagna until you are ready to deliver or bake it.  With these no bake noodles, a little time to settle and soak up the sauce is a good thing.  Also, make sure there is plenty of sauce in your layers, so that there is enough moisture to cook the noodles as it bakes.

When ready, bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  I start out with it covered with foil, but uncover it for the last 5-8 minutes so the cheese on top gets brown and bubbly.

Even though it’s cold, and dark by 4:00 p.m. here, that’s no reason not to uncover the grill and throw on a few steaks. Especially when organic grass fed steaks are on sale.  So I whipped up this concoction and let them marinate for several hours.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup reduced sodium Worcestershire
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cracked red pepper
1 tsp Gourmet Garden minced garlic
3 bay leaves
a sprinkle of black pepper

I don’t know if it was the quality of the meat, or the marinade, or the combination of the two, but these were the loveliest, most tender steaks. Just 10-12 minutes on the grill, and they were perfectly medium rare — a rich red without being bloody.  This is now a staple in my repertoire.

Fall weather creates a craving for comfort food — especially hot, creamy casseroles. This easy peasy way to make beef stroganoff results in a lovely jubbly homemade meal while you spend the day outside in the pumpkin patch.

Ingredients:

1 lb organic grass fed stew beef, cubed
2 cups sliced fresh baby portobello mushrooms
1 cup diced onion (frozen or fresh)
16 ounces organic low sodium or no salt added beef broth
1 tbs organic tomato paste
1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Gourmet Garden garlic paste
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup organic sour cream
egg noodles or other pasta, cooked al dente

How I Made It:

Rinse and pat dry the beef cubes before putting them in the slow cooker.  Cover the beef with the onions and mushrooms.  In a bowl, whisk together the beef broth, Worcestershire, and little dab of garlic.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.  Set the slow cooker to low and go play for 6-7 hours.

About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, dissolve the flour in a bit of water. It should be of a consistency between wallpaper paste and milk paint. Stir the flour mixture into the sauce and let it cook for 30 minutes more.  Cook the pasta and then, right before you are ready to serve, stir the sour cream into the sauce and combine thoroughly.

Serve the stroganoff sauce over noodles.  Add a salad or steamed carrots for a balanced meal.

How It Turned Out:

YUM-MEE!  It is satisfyingly creamy, with big chunks of tender beef and rich mushroom flavor. I used veggie noodles, both for the vitamins and the harvest colors.

Stroganoff

We celebrated the start of my favorite munchkin’s school adventure (The First Day of Kindergarten!) tonight. He set the menu: spaghetti, chocolate mint cupcakes, and by request, homemade ice cream. What a great excuse to bring out the KitchenAid ice cream maker!

Ingredients:

2 cups crunchy organic peanut butter
1 cup organic granulated sugar
4 cups organic whole milk
2 cups organic half and half
2 tsps. organic vanilla
1 cup Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips

How I Made It:

In your mixer, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Mix on medium-low speed with the whisk attachment until the peanut butter and sugar are combined. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in the milk.  Continue to whisk until there are no lumps of peanut butter left.  Add the half and half and vanilla and whisk for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours.

Transfer the cold mixture to your ice cream maker and proceed according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Fold in the chocolate chips at the end, before transferring the ice cream to your container for freezing.  Freeze for 2 hours before serving.

Ice Cream Maker

How It Turned Out:

This batch turned out to be very tasty (though I think I could’ve used a little less vanilla). I try to serve my homemade ice cream within 3 hours of making it, before it gets too hard and crystalized. That means it’s kind of soft, but that’s okay.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

 

My favorite five year old is growing like a weed and needs all the building blocks to achieve great heights. While he has a broad taste for healthful foods (avocado, kale, hummus, etc.), it’s not easy to get him to eat more than a few bites at a time.  So we all try to pack as many nutrients as possible into what we know he’ll eat.  Pancakes! are one of those tried and true meals.

This recipe swaps out buttermilk for greek yogurt to add more protein (like I typically do in my sweet treats). One ounce of greek yogurt can have 2-3 grams of protein, where buttermilk has just one. That’s more fuel for the munchkin’s muscle-making! You can up the healthfulness by using whole wheat flour (I just didn’t have any).

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
3/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
3/4 cup 1% milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

How I Made Them:

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, using a fork to sift everything together.  Put 3/4 cup of greek yogurt in a glass measuring cup, topping with enough milk to hit the 1 1/2 cup line (I think this is about 3/4 cup).  Whisk the yogurt and milk together until combined, then add it to the flour mixture. Add the egg and melted butter, and whisk together to make the batter.  Remember that you want a slightly lumpy batter.

Use a nonstick skillet or griddle (so you don’t need more butter) over medium to medium-high heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time onto the surface, making sure your pancakes don’t touch as they cook.  When the bubbles start to appear, flip your pancake and cook for about 1 minute. If you aren’t getting a lovely golden pancake, you might add a little butter to the pan.

Pancake

You can add berries or chocolate chips as you cook the pancakes, topping the pancake before you flip it.

Choc Chip Pancake

Keep your pancakes warm in the oven (set on warm) while you cook them, so they all go to the table hot.

How They Turned Out:

The munchkin ate FOUR of these little beauties for dinner.  SUCCESS!

This recipe makes about 8 small pancakes.  Double the recipe for a family of four.

 

Southerners love their rolls.  I grew up on the legend of “Helen Duck’s Spoon Rolls.” My friend Judy tells the story of the woman who baked and froze hundreds of yeast rolls to be served at her memorial luncheon when she died — because no one else’s rolls were as good as hers.  I’m new to making my own rolls, because Rhodes Rolls are just so easy and yummy.  But for tonight’s dinner party, in the spirit of my bread-baking adventures (and because Judy the roll connoisseur will be there), I made these homemade rolls.

Ingredients:

1 tbs Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
2 cups hot water (not boiling, from the tap is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbs olive oil

How I Made Them:

In a bowl, combine the yeast and hot water.  Mix with a spoon or spatula and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.

In the bowl of the standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, egg, salt, and canola oil. Switch out the paddle for the dough hook and add 4 cups of flour.  Pour in the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed for 10-12 minutes.  You may need to pause the mixer and scrape the sides if the dough doesn’t pull together on its own.  Toward the end of your mixing time, add the last 2 cups of flour in small batches until you get a firm, slightly sticky dough.

Prepare a big bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, swirled around the sides. When the dough is done, gather it into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl.  Turn the dough a couple of times so that all the sides are coated with the olive oil.  Cover and let rise someplace warm for one hour.

The dough will have doubled in size after the first rising.  Punch down the dough and give it a couple of quick kneads.  Prepare muffin tins (30-36) with baking spray.  Transfer spoonsful of dough to the muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full.  Cover the tins and let rise someplace warm for half an hour or until the dough fills the muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (if you used my trick of letting the dough rise in the oven, be sure you removed the tins first!).  Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm from the oven.

How They Turned Out:

Rolls

A nice basic roll with a good texture and soft crust. Makes 30 rolls.

I have been pursuing the perfect loaf of homemade bread for months now.  Usually, if there is something that I cannot make better than store-bought, I concede gracefully. However, since I began baking bread to share for Communion at church, I feel the need to create beautiful golden loaves with the perfect crunchy-chewy crust on top.  So far, I’ve managed passable loaves (once you cut off the too-dense or too-dry crusts).

This recipe, however, may just be the Holy Grail of breads.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 tsp Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 hot water (not boiling, from the tap is fine)
1 tbs kosher salt
3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 2/3 cups of hot water (not boiling, from from the tap is fine)
7-8 cups of flour
2 tbs olive oil

How I Made It:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar and hot water.  Mix with a spoon or spatula and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.  Add the salt, butter, and remaining hot water and turn the mixer on low speed.  Add half the flour one cup at a time, letting the wet and dry ingredients come together slowly. Add the remaining flour in small batches until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.  (This attempt used a little more than 7 cups of flour.)

Let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour if it starts to get too sticky.  Prepare a big bowl with 2 tbs of olive oil, swirled around the sides. When the dough is done, gather it into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl.  Turn the dough a couple of times so that all the sides are coated with the olive oil.  Cover and let rise someplace warm for one hour.

♦ The “let dough rise” step has been giving me trouble. Since I live in a rainforest, and I keep my house very cool, I don’t really have a “warm place” that encourages the dough to rise.  Previously, I’ve placed the bowl on the counter over the dishwasher while I ran a load of dishes. That helped but it wasn’t quite enough.  This time I set the oven to warm just as I started to make the bread.  I turned it off after 2 minutes, so it was warm but not hot by the time I was ready for the bread to rise.  I think this is the answer — but you have to watch to be sure your bread dough doesn’t escape the bowl!

Bread Dough

Once the bread dough has risen to at least twice the original size, punch it down and knead it just a bit before turning it out on a floured surface. Divide the dough into three portions. Fold and pat each portion into a loaf. Spray the loaf pans with baking spray and then transfer the loaves to the pans.  Cover the pans and let them rise for another hour.

Loaves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (remove the loaf pans if you were letting them rise in there).  Put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet before putting them in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cover the loaves with non-stick aluminum foil (to prevent burning the top) and bake for another 15 minutes.

Let the loaves cool before slicing.

How It Turned Out:

Three absolutely beautiful loaves of homemade bread to share!

3 Loaves of Bread

This is definitely the recipe I’ll use from now on.

 

 

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