Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Classic Lasagna

Well after reading the title I'm sure it's no shocker that I made lasagna. It was my first go at it and well..it turned out pretty dang good! Once again I referred to my Giada book. So far she hasn't disappointed! And I'm so glad it didn't disappoint because lasagna is a lot of work!! Especially if you don't already have all your sauces pre-made which unfortunately for me I didn't. So all the prep time before cooking took about 3 1/2 hours.  

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 15 dry lasagna noodles, I used the whole package from Barilla
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb beef ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork (the recipe doesn't call for pork but I had to use it up)
  • 1 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups béchamel sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 lbs whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
 Béchamel Sauce:
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 cups warm whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • pinch of ground nutmeg, plus more to taste
In a 2 qt. saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick, smooth, and creamy, about 10 minutes (do not allow the sauce to boil). Remove from the heat and stir 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.)

Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 32 ounce cans crushed tomatoes (san marzano is the best!)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about an hour. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. (This sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.)

Ok! On to the fun part!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the vegetable oil to help prevent the noodles from sticking. Cook the lasagna until almost al dente, about 6 minutes (this will prevent the noodles from becoming mushy in the lasagna). Drain, then rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking and help remove any excess starch. Cover lightly with a damp towel to prevent the pasta from drying out. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over a medium high flame. Add the meat and 1/2 tsp of each salt and pepper and saute until the meat is fully cooked, breaking up any large clumps. Remove from heat, drain any excess fat and let cool completely. 

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix the béchamel and marinara sauces to blend. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

In another medium bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper to blend. Set aside. Spread the butter over a 13x9 inch baking dish. Spoon 1/3 of the béchamel-marinara sauce over the bottom of the dish. Arrange 5 lasagna noodles atop the sauce, overlapping slightly and covering the bottom of the dish completely. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly on top of the noodles. Arrange 5 more lasagna noodles, then top with the ground beef. Spoon more of the béchamel-marinara sauce over it then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Repeat until finished. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. (This lasagna can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Uncover before baking). 

Bake lasagna until heated through and the top is bubbling, about 45 minutes.  

 We enjoyed our lasagna and wine outside


 This last picture I just had to share because I found it so funny/cute. This is Brian zealously picking berries hoping that I would make him a berry pie. Well, I caved and made him one.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Over the Weekend

This weekend was filled with relaxing, eating, cooking and enjoying the sunshine. We went into Seattle, ate lunch at a favorite spot then walked to find some coffee. The coffee spot just happened to be a few blocks away from a tiny little opening to lake union. We sat, people watched, drank our coffee and watched the blue angels fly above. I couldn't have asked for a more relaxing afternoon. I also spent about 3 hours preparing a lasagna for Sunday...but I'll write about that in a separate post.

 I love the colorful doors! Across the street from the Little Water Cantina where we like to eat.

 That couple on their boards popped open a bottle of champagne and just hung out there. Brilliant.
We also visited the car museum in Tacoma on a whim. Super cool!!! I would definitely go back several times just to ooh and aaah.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Visitor & Fettuccini

Last week my brother came to visit! Unfortunately it was the only week this whole summer that we have had thunderstorms. Go figure. All well, we kept busy doing inside stuff and I made him fettuccini alfredo. Brian had actually been requesting it for some time and I kept procrastinating but since we had a special guest I thought it was the perfect time. Before now I had never made alfredo sauce and didn't know how much work I had to put in. I couldn't believe it was so easy! For this recipe I relied on my Giada book.

Ingredients:
  • 18 ounces fettuccini
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 12 tbsp butter (I used less)
  • 2 cups grated parmesan
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper
Directions:
  • Stir 2 cups of the cream and the lemon juice in a heavy large skillet to blend. Add the butter and cook over medium heat just until the butter melts, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally
  • Add the sauce to the pasta. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream, and Parmesan to the cream sauce. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Toss the pasta mixture over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.


 We went to the casino...he lost and I broke even



 Hiding from my camera


 First fender bender...check.


 Ian and I had to partake in some Scottish beer at a Scottish pub


 And eat some good food


Ian's bratty face

Friday, July 18, 2014

Twisp/Wintrop

Brian and I took a little road trip and headed east for a few days. The weather was hot, the towns were VERY small and all there was to do was relax, eat, drink, read and enjoy the scenery. Just what we needed. Some tidbits...












Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs

Up here in Washington we are pretty spoiled when it comes to seafood. Last year I discovered copper river salmon. You can't go anywhere for 4 weeks without seeing signs in grocery stores, restaurants, etc. that say "Copper River Salmon Is Here!" I've never seen anything like it! So I figured this is something I need to try. What can be so great about this salmon?? Salmon is salmon. Oh no. It was so good that Brian and I practically binged on all the salmon we could get our hands on for 3 weeks straight. So here I am craving salmon and copper river salmon is not available, so I guess I'll "settle" for the other stuff. :) This recipe is from Ina Garten who I really haven't tried many recipes from so I was very happy it turned out great. 

Ingredients:
  • 1 (2-2.5 pound) skinless salmon fillet (I happened to have 3 small fillets w/ skin)
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions, white & green parts (4 scallions)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Place the salmon in a roasting dish and season it generously with salt & pepper. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, dill and parsley. Scatter the herb mixture over the salmon, turning it so that both sides are generously coated with the green herbs. Pour the wine around the fish. 
  • Roast the salmon for 10-12 minutes, until almost cooked in the center at the thickest part. The center will be firm with just a line of uncooked salmon in the very center. Cover the dish lightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 
  • Serve with lemon wedges
 Sorry for the horrible picture quality...every time I actually remember to take a picture it happens to be in the awful kitchen lighting when it's dark outside.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lately

Here are a few pictures that I have accumulated over the past month or so...

Spent some time in nature at the cabin in Chelan
Painted our front door red!
Wine tasting? Sure!
My 10 year old girl dreams came true...Brian made me a flower bracelet. Truth be told, I never learned how to make them and was a bit embarrassed that Brian whipped this one up in a matter of 5 minutes
 Saw Yann Tiersen play



 To celebrate my birthday we went on a dinner cruise in Seattle. Probably the youngest people on that whole boat and it was a little cheesy but you know what? We had a blast

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm Back!

I just realized how long it's been since I last posted something...much too long! I guess I was feeling lazy. But I was very happy with a meal I made so I thought I'd share. 
I have always been curious about lemon chicken but never tried it because I'm not really THAT into lemon. So a whole dish bombarded with lemon just didn't really sound all that great. But here we are heading into summer and I saw this picture on pinterest and thought...hmmm that looks pretty good!
And not to mention I don't really cook chicken breast anymore because it's typically on the dry side and lacks flavor. I always use the thigh meat or roast the whole chicken. But here I am making lemon chicken breasts. And you know what? It was absolutely delicious!! Yes, it was very lemony, but it was refreshing and the meat wasn't dry at all. I couldn't believe it. For me it's a perfect summer meal. I paired the chicken with roasted rosemary potatoes and an arugula salad. 

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 X 12-inch baking dish. (I used my dutch oven)
  • Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken. (I used the lemons that I zested) 
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices. 
Yesterday I turned 30. So I thought I would celebrate by eating this yummy meal outside in the backyard with some french wine, enjoy my own company and my birthday. It was perfectly relaxing and I feel ready to take on a new decade.
Cheers!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chicken Francaise

This dish is super easy and really tasty! Definitely keeping this one in the rotation. I mean, who doesn't like a butter wine sauce?!

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3 Chicken Breasts (I used chicken thighs)
  • 2 Eggs plus 2 tablespoons Water (whisked)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1/2 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/3 cup Capers
  • 6 tablespoons Parsley (roughly chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons Butter
Directions:
  • Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  • Season the flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper and whisk together in a baking dish. Lightly coat the chicken breasts in the seasoned flour and then dip in the egg wash. Gently place in the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the breast and fry for another 2 minutes until golden.   
  • Add the sliced garlic to the pan and cook for about 20 seconds. Deglaze with the wine, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth, lemon juice and capers and allow to reduce for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the lemon zest, parsley and butter and swirl to emulsify. Plate the chicken with the sauce and serve.
I served the chicken with mashed potatoes. Yum!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lately

 Beautiful blooms in the front yard
 I agreed to go to Cabela's with Brian but only if I can hang out on this ridiculous camo chair. If it wasn't camo I would have seriously considered buying it. It was THAT comfy!


 Brian smoking a stogie and cutting the lawn for the first time
 And I was there for moral support :)
 I had to document this blue sky
 Brian's bonsai mini worlds



 Red vans ready for some summer strolling
 Record player slowly being assembled