Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lasagna anyone?

Hubby asked me early Saturday night what would taste good for dinner?  I thought for just a few seconds and said the first thing that came into my mind - Lasagna!  He's said, sounds good  and then off we both went to our exercises plans of the day.  While hubby went to the gym I went to my Pilates class at a local studio.  Following class I headed to our local Wegmans to pick up ingredients for dinner and a few extras.  If you have ever been to a Wegmans you always pick up more than is on your grocery list.

I grabbed one of the small two tier carts and headed into produce.  We needed salad fixings and a few fresh veggies for dinner.  I then headed over to the deli area and picked up a package of large pepperoni, about 3" size and a quick stop at the old world cheese for Parmesan.  Then off to the meat counter and I grabbed a pack of meat loaf mix.  The meatloaf mix gives you ground beef, pork and veal and is also the same thing as meat ball mix.  Then I moved over to dairy for part skim ricotta and a bag of  shredded mozzarella.  To finish up my ingredients I moved to the pasta aisle and grabbed a box of no boil Lasagna sheets and a jar of DiVavilo sauce. The sauce is a little spicy and would give the Lasagna a little kick.  Shopping mission accomplished, I headed home.

Around 4:30 in the afternoon I began preparing my Lasagna.  Using the directions on the box as a guide I planned out my Lasagna my way.  I started by browning my meat mix on the stove and as I did that I prepared my cheese mixture.  By six o'clock dinner was on the table.  Easy and tasty!

Easy Lasagna

1 lb meatball mix
18 to 24 slices of pepperoni
1 container of part skim ricotta
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, additional for the top
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
1 25 oz. DiVavilo sauce
2 cups water
12 sheets of no boil Lasagna

In a large sauté pan, brown the meatball mix until it is no longer pink.  Drain the excess fat from pan.  Add the jar of DiVavilo sauce and 2 cups of water.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil ( about 3 minutes).  While the sauce is cooking, combine ricotta, mozzarella, egg, parsley and 1/3 cup Parmesan.

In a 13x9x2 pan, spread 1/2 cups of sauce.  Place 4 sheets of Lasagna over sauce.  Cover with 1/2 cheese mixture, 9 to 12 pieces of pepperoni, 1/3 oft he remaining sauce.  Repeat with 4 more noodles, remaining cheese mixture,  remaining pepperoni and 1/3 of sauce.  Cover with the 4 remaining Lasagna sheets and the rest of sauce.  Sprinkle top with some shredded Parmesan.  Cover with aluminum foil.  

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Classic comfort food

Yesterday was a very cold day and one that lends itself to a great big bowl of classic comfort food, Macaroni and Cheese!  Not the bland box kind, the real homemade Mac and Cheese.  

The day started out at -11 degrees and wind chill temperatures at -26.  Almost all of the schools in our area were either closed or had a 2 hour delay, except my kids school.  They were not very happy with us when we decided that we would bring them to school after the 2 hour scheduled delay, especially since 75% of the students didn't show up.  I was reminded all day that they should of closed school, and they should of, but we could get them there and back home.

Our dear daughter thought that since we made them go to school we should go out to eat, but once I got home from work I didn't want to bundle back up and go out into the cold again.  So, what would taste good on a cold winters night - my classic Macaroni and Cheese.  Now my son was not a fan of this recipe when he was little.  He preferred the box stuff over real cheese macaroni.  I would have to call it something else and use a different shaped noodle than the basic macaroni to get him to eat it.  Now he would eat the whole bowl if I let him. On the other hand the little 8 year old that lives behind us loves it so much she wants her mom to make my recipe and even when I gave it to her she told her it wasn't the same.  So I occasionally make a pan when she is around so she can have mine.

So, with the cheese I had on hand in the refrigerator (some shredded Cheddar cheese and a brick of Guyre) and a box of rotelle noodles, my daughter and I whipped together a big tasty bowl of comfort food on an extremely cold winters night.

Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons  of butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
2 cups of milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups of macaroni, cooked and drained

( for this recipe I used a bag of shredded cheese and then about 4ounces of Guyre.  You can use any combination of cheese to change the flavor)

Melt butter over low heat.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Cook until smooth stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and gradually add the milk.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.  If necessary return to low heat to finish melting cheese.  Do not boil.  Combine cheese sauce and macaroni.  Spoon into a buttered 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle some flavored bread crumbs over top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Banana recipes anyone?

This will be a bonus blog for everyone. Two recipes from one ingredient - bananas!   We had our foodie friends over last weekend and for dessert I made a recipe from our big binder of food delights that was originally made about10 years ago.  We knew that our friends would love it because that was who we made it for 10 years ago.  And they reminded us that they liked it because it tasted just like the banana pudding from Rosalie's Cucina, a great restaurant near our house. This is a simple, no bake recipe that is makes plenty.  

Do you love the flavor of short bread cookies, vanilla pudding with cream cheese and the hint of banana?  Okay, I said hint of banana because it is not one of my favorite foods, but when combined with the vanilla pudding and the cookies, I don't mind it.  The 13 by 11 inch pan will provide you with a dessert that will feed a good size crowd or leave you with leftovers for a few days.

Not Yo Mama’s Banana Pudding


1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream 
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 
2 cups milk 
1 5-ounce box instant French vanilla pudding 
6-8 bananas, sliced 
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies


Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


 Now, do you have some extra bananas lying around the kitchen?  We had a few from the banana pudding recipe we made last Saturday night when our foodie friends came for dinner.  We finally found the time to use them up yesterday afternoon.    Hubby remembered that we had the recipe from Starbucks for their banana bread that is sold in the stores.  He wiped this recipe up yesterday and we enjoyed a slice with our coffee this morning.  

Starbucks Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/8 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe medium-large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (in addition to 1/2 cup)


Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and dust with flour.  Blend the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Mix the egg, sugar, and vegetable oil until combined.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and  blended, add the buttermilk, vanilla, and mashed bananas; mix well.  Fold 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Top the batter with remaining 1/3 cup of walnuts.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday casserole for Super Bowl

Hubby was going to guest blog on this one, but time ran out and I decided to post this myself.  Now let's make this very clear, I did not make this dish, hubby did.  He made the substitutions, he did the shopping and then he whipped it all together.  It was a great Sunday Casserole with left overs for a busy week ahead.  I also think that this would be great for the Super Bowl.  Substitutions in bold, so pay close attention. 

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts  (Now he used a rotisserie chicken and removed the meat.  No boiled chicken for us!)
  • Salt and pepper
  • (24 oz.) jar pasta sauce 
  • (5-inch) corn tortillas. - we used flour tortillas
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack (8 oz.)
  • small tomato, sliced 
  • Secret ingredient - 1 pack of taco seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. ORIGINAL DIRECTIONS Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in a small skillet and add cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, turning once or twice, until opaque and firm, about 10 minutes. Remove, let cool and cut into small pieces or shred. You should have about 3 cups cut-up chicken.
OUR DIRECTIONS - remove meat from rotisserie chicken.

  1. Mix taco seasoning packet with pasta sauce - Spread one-third of sauce over bottom of a 7-by-11-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 tortillas, slightly overlapping, on top. Sprinkle one-third of chicken and cilantro over tortillas. Top with a third of cheese. Make two more layers of sauce, tortillas, chicken, cilantro and cheese. Arrange tomato on final layer of cheese. Cover with foil and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook until top is lightly browned, 10 minutes more.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Homemade Ravioli Anyone?

About a week ago I was sitting around looking at some of the magazines that I subscribe to for any interesting recipes I would like to save before I recycled them.  I believe it was Coastal Living that I found this appealing recipe - Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli.  I remembered that we still had one of those nuclear sized butternut squash from our foodie friends garden sitting in the garage (our winter cold storage) that we had to either use up or toss.  So I cut out the recipe and looked over the ingredients to see what I needed to add to my shopping list. 

I did not plan on the ravioli that night, but still cut the squash up and made a new Butternut Squash soup recipe and I roasted a pan of squash for dinner.  They went with the wiener schnitzel I made that I featured my friend Melina's fresh gnocchi and my home made pesto.  The remaining squash I did not use last Sunday I put I a zip lock bag in the refrigerator to have on hand for making this recipe.  Trust me when I say it was a nuclear sized squash that I could get a batch of soup, a pan of roasted squash and then more than enough squash to make this recipe.    

Nuclear Butternut Squash

From Squash to Ravioli

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli

  • (12-ounce) package frozen cooked butternut squash puree, thawed, or 1 1/4 cups cooked and mashed butternut squash
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • (12-ounce) packages won ton wrappers
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Garnish: sage leaves, freshly ground black pepper
  1. 1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon squash mixture in center of 1 won ton wrapper. Brush won ton wrapper with water around squash mixture, and top with second won ton wrapper. Press down with ravioli stamp or fork, sealing edges well. Trim excess won ton around edges. Repeat with remaining squash mixture and won ton wrappers.
  2. 2. Cook ravioli, in batches, in gently boiling water 3 minutes or until done. (Do not rapidly boil.) Remove with a slotted spoon.
  3. 3. Cook butter and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat 6 minutes or until browned. Stir in pecans and chopped sage. Toss ravioli in butter mixture; garnish, if desired. Serve immediately



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Presto - It's Basil Pesto with homemade Gnocchi from Melina's Fresh Pasta Company

Remember my neighbor "Giada from across the street" sister?  She has her own pasta company in Durham, North Carolina and sells fresh pasta through the farmers market in the area, local grocery stores and a few restaurants too.  I posted this a recipe this summer using her ravioli's that got rave reviews.  Well I pulled out a batch of her home made gnocchi from the freezer today to go with my homemade basil pesto sauce.  

I love pesto!  I found this recipe over 20 years ago and love to make it whenever I have some fresh basil around.  I recently bought some basil for another recipe I was making and decided to make some pesto to have in the freezer.  I pulled both the gnocchi and the pesto out this afternoon and used this dish as a side to our wiener schnitzel and roasted butternut squash.  The dinner plate was brimming with great flavors from around the world - German, Italian and good old American roasted veggies.

Check out Melina's site for products and recipes.  If you are ever in Durham, look her up!

Pesto Sauce

2 cups fresh basil, lightly packed
1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup pine nuts, almonds or walnuts finely chopped
Dash of nutmeg

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth.  Store in refrigerator covered until ready for use.  Mix well.  Serve warm or cool.

Pesto in the making!

Fresh from the freezer to our table!

Friday, January 3, 2014

More Ham...and Scalloped Potatoes

More leftovers? Yup that is right, we had ham leftovers to use up.  So what do you do with Ham Leftovers.....Ham and scalloped potatoes.

Now I could of used my moms recipe, but I don't believe she ever wrote it down.  She would just throw something together and the outcome would be good.  But that wasn't what I was looking for.  I wanted a recipe that if I liked it I would have it the next time we had ham leftovers.  What I liked about this recipe is the sautéed onions and cheese that was added.  I also added a bit of fresh thyme to the sauce.

So, while I am typing this I was just Ham the traditional Christmas dish?  Turkey is
Thanksgiving, and I see Ham as an  Easter staple, so what is the traditional Christmas meal? 

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes (From Food Network)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
12 ounces 1/4 inch sliced baked ham
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and set aside. In a skillet, cook onions in melted butter until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 of the white sauce in bottom of baking dish and top with half of the potatoes. Spread out half of the onions, ham, cheese And another third of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Continue layering ingredients, ending with the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. (Test the potatoes to make sure they are done.  It may take a few more minutes to assure they are tender)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Split Pea soup for you!

Happy New Year!  Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy New Year!
  • This Christmas my mother-in- law hosted Christmas Day dinner.  Once she told us she was having a spiral ham my hubby requested the ham bone for Split Pea soup.  He had the peas already and his recipe pull out that he had made a couple of times before.  On Saturday morning Hubby was looking at the new Fine Cooking magazine that we had received the day before and low and behold a Pea Soup recipe was featured.  He can be adventurous and we had all of the ingredients, so why not try this one.
Our daughter had a basketball game late Saturday afternoon. My sister had recently had surgery and is not able to drive quite yet had asked for a ride to the game.  She is a big fan of the kids basketball games.  We started the soup in the early afternoon and finished it up just before heading out to the game.  I called my sister and told her we would be a few minutes late because we were finishing up the Split Pea soup for dinner.  Hubby asked if she wanted some and her reply was " I am not a big fan.  Can't get past the color."  I am shocked!  We grew up on homemade soups of all sorts.  My parents owned a diner and Dad made soup everyday!  So we filled a bowl for her and her husband to try and off we went.  I am happy to report that we got a text Saturday night that the soup was good!
So if you are hankering for some soup and have a ham bone lying around.... (Or get some ham hocks from the grocery store), give this recipe a try.


  • Ham and Split Pea Soup

  • 1-1/2 lb. smoked ham hocks (1 or 2) (We used  the ham bone from Christmas dinner)
  • 1 lb. (2-1/4 cups) green or yellow split peas, picked over
  • 1 medium leek, white and light-green parts chopped
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne, more to taste
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Rinse the ham hocks (ham bone) and split peas. Combine them in a deep 7- to 8-quart stockpot with 15 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam, and boil for 5 minutes.
Lower the heat to a simmer, add the leek, thyme, and bay leaf, and simmer gently until the peas are falling apart, about 1-1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring with a wooden spatula, until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the carrots and celery, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are just tender, another 15 minutes.
Transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Add the vegetables to the soup, scraping the skillet with the wooden spatula to release any browned bits. Stir in 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, the cloves, and the cayenne, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Turn the heat off, discard the bay leaf, add the parsley, and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender, working in batches) until smooth.
Cut the skin from the ham hocks, and then remove the meat from the bone, discarding any large pieces of fat. Dice the meat and add it to the soup. Reheat the soup over medium-low heat, simmering and stirring occasionally, until it’s the consistency of heavy cream and pours easily from a ladle, about 10 minutes. Thin with a little water, if necessary. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve hot.
Make Ahead Tips
The soup can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. It will thicken as it cools, but will thin again when heated. Reheat slowly, adding water as needed, to prevent the bottom from burning.