Creating memories in the kitchen...One meal at a time.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paula Deen's Lot's O' Meat Lasagna

In case you haven't noticed, and not  intentionally, I've been on a kick lately. Trying to find some good old-fashioned, basic, go-to recipes. I love trying new recipes and different versions of our families favorites, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's so nice to have a recipe you know you can depend on to give you great results every time. My latest quest ?Lasagna.

I have a few lasagna recipes I really like. The Pioneer Woman's recipe, this amazing version that I usually save for company or special occasions, and this fun mexican version. Although they are all delicious in different ways, I was still on the lookout for something new.

Then as luck would have it, when my friend Andrea and I were planning what to feed our boy's soccer team and some of their families at an upcoming tournament, she suggested a lasagna recipe her brother had e-mailed her. After reading over the ingredients, I had a feeling it was going to be good.

After tasting it, I had to agree, it was delicious. I loved the combination of both ground beef and sausage. The addition of ricotta as well as cottage cheese ? Let's just say it totally makes the lasagna. The soccer boys and their families devoured it. It's a keeper.

Lots O'Meat Lasagna

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (the original recipe calls for ground chuck so do whatever you like best)
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano *we don't like chunks of tomatoes so I puree this. Sometimes I add a little more if the sauce looks too dry)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 16 oz. container ricotta cheese
  • 1 (5-ounce) package grated Parmigianno-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 9-12 oven-ready lasagna noodles (Barilla is my favorite. see cooks note at bottom)
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages shredded mozzarella *


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saucepan, combine ground chuck, sausage onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned and crumbled; drain.
Return meat to pan and add oregano, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, puree tomatoes in food processor. Add tomatoes or tomato puree, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.( If the sauce looks too dry, I add a little more of the tomato puree.)
In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese,ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, and eggs.
Spoon 1/4 of sauce into bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan. Place 3 uncooked lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Do not overlap noodles. Spread 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture over noodles, top with 1/4 of sauce and 1/3 mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with sauce, reserving 1/3 of mozzarella cheese.
Bake 45 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil, top with remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
**Cooks Notes 

If you use Barilla brand of oven ready lasagna noodles, you will need to use 12 noodles because they are fatter and shorter. When I halved the recipe for 8x8 pan I used about 6 noodles.

I  never use pre-grated cheese. They use a substance on it to keep it from clumping which keeps it from melting as nicely as freshly grated cheese.

Recipe Source: adapted from Paula Deen
Posted by: Sallie

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Go-To Brownies

I love brownies. Always have, always will. Great for  picnics and potlucks, packed in lunches, with a nice tall glass of cold milk or nestled in a bowl with some silky hot fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream. Yum.

For a long time this Paula Deen version reigned as my favorite. Until I made these. Don't get me wrong, I still love Paula's version and make them quite often but these babies are everything I love in a brownie. Fudgy, moist, dense without being too heavy, and the kicker---little pockets of chocolate chips  in every bite.

Considering that during marathon season last year my husband and I consumed at least 10 pans of these babies, I think we can now claim to be experts on the subject. I'd make a batch on Saturday night, let them firm up in the fridge overnight and the next day cut them into bite sized pieces, perfect for snacking on all day long.

*Although I haven't gotten around to making it, I've included the turtle variation below.*

Turtle Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
24 ounces good quality, semisweet chocolate chips
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9x2 pan with butter.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and water, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 12 ounces of the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Combine the dry ingredients and mix gently into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the remaining chocolate and vanilla.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels just firm to the touch, about 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. While brownies are cooling, prepare the topping.

Caramel Pecan Topping Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups pecan halves and pieces


In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to a boil over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and let the caramel cook until it turns golden, 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cream and vanilla. The hot caramel may spatter when you add the cream, so be careful. When the caramel stops bubbling excessively, stir until smooth, and then stir in the pecans. Spread the topping over the cooled brownies in an even layer. Let cool, then cut brownies into 16 squares.

Recipe Source: The Family Kitchen Cookbook

Posted by: Sallie
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Grilled Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Grilled Balsamic-Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds each)
2 tablespoons canola oil (if preparing in oven)


Stir together garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the paste all over pork. If you like or have the time, marinate overnight. If not, no worries, it will still be great!
Grill preparation:
Sear the tenderloins on all sides, then grill for about 20-30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Try to let it rest before slicing.
Oven preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat canola oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add pork, and brown all over, about 4 minutes.
Transfer pan to oven. Roast pork, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and try to let it rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Recipe & Picture Source: Kitchen Confidante 

Posted by: Sallie

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Best Hamburger Buns

What better to go with the perfect hamburger, than the best hamburger buns? After making these homemade hamburger buns from King Arthur Flour and these cute little brioche buns I was on a quest to find the best hamburger buns to go with my perfect burger.

Luckily, my search was quick and easy. Along with her recipe for the perfect hamburger, Annie also had her perfect hamburger bun recipe. Originally printed in the NY times and adapted by another of my favorite food bloggers, Deb from Smitten Kitchen  who searched through over 100 different recipes, searching for the one. That's dedication!

With the perfect amount of fluff and firmness, these buns were every bit as good as the burger. They baked up golden and buttery with a hint of sweetness. The texture was heavier than your high quality white bread but lighter than a true brioche and complimented the burger perfectly.The process was just as easy as making your average dinner roll.

 I did half with sesame seeds and half without, thinking that my kids would turn their noses up at the seeded ones, but they were the first to go.

Now I've got my perfect burger and my perfect bun. It's going to be a great summer!

Light Brioche Burger Buns

3 tbsp. warm milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. instant yeast
2½ tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour ( I ended up using between  3 1/8-3 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
For topping:
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
Sesame seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the flours to the bowl, and mix until incorporated.  Mix in the butter.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough will be somewhat tacky, but you want to avoid adding too much extra flour which will create tough buns.  
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  Gently roll each portion of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled.  
Set a large metal pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center.  Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake the buns about 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats via Smitten Kitchen and Originally printed in the New York Times.

Posted by: Sallie
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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Perfect Hamburger

Grilling season is in full swing and I've been on the hunt for the "perfect burger" recipe. 

My husband has become quite the grill-master but he's not always around when the dinner prep begins and I like having a go-to recipe that I know is going to give me great results every time. After a few mediocre attempts, I stumbled upon this recipe. Just looking at it convinced me that this was "the one!"

Boy, was I right!  Classic seasonings and good old-fashioned ingredients, nothing fancy here, turned out some of the best burgers we've ever had. The only change I made was subbing out the ground sirloin for ground chuck. I'm usually a lean ground beef kinda girl but when it comes to burgers, if you want it  nice and juicy you need that extra little fat. These burgers were so  good in fact, that we ate them two nights in a row and my husband announced he will be eating them every night when the kids and I take our annual cousins trip to my Moms.

If you're a beginner at the grill, see the great tips below from the girls over at The Sister's Cafe. I'll just add my two-cents. If you want the "perfect burger" you gotta have a homemade bun. Just sayin.

The Perfect Hamburger

1 lb. ground chuck
2 Tbs. finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
4 slices cheddar or Swiss cheese (optional.Truth be told Kraft singles are my absolute fav)
4 hamburger buns, split
Sliced tomato for serving
Sliced onion, for serving
Torn lettuce for serving
Sliced dill pickle for serving
Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard or other condiments of your choice for serving

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, yellow onion, garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each 3⁄4 inch thick.

Grill the hamburgers directly over medium-high heat, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Check for doneness by cutting into a hamburger near the center or testing with an instant-read thermometer. No pink should show on the inside, and the internal temperature should register at least 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. If making cheeseburgers, place a slice of cheese on top of each hamburger during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

During the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking, toast the hamburger buns, cut side down, on the grill. Serve the hamburgers on the buns with tomato, white onion, lettuce, dill pickle and condiments. Serves 4.

A Few Tips for the Perfect Burger:
1. Brush your grill with oil and then heat to medium.
2.  Put  all the ingredients together in a bowl and add any “stir ins” your heart desires:)
3.  Using your hands or a fork, gently stir together.  Be careful to handle the meat as little as possible–the heat from your hands will start to melt the fat creating a dense and tough hamburger.
4.  Gently create 4- 5 patties that are 3/4 inch thick. (per pound of meat)
5.  Have you ever had your burgers form rounded tops when cooking, causing your condiments to slide off?  Well, the smart people at America Test Kitchens found if you use your thumb to create a small depression in the center of the burger, it will prevent that during cooking.  I have done this ever since I read that –and it works like a charm!
6.  Place hamburger patties on the preheated grill and close the lid!  Do not poke, smash or flip more than once!  This will make all the juices to come out and your will be left with dry as a bone burgers!  Leave on the grill until no longer pink inside, turning one time!  Usually this is 5-7 minutes per side, depending on how thick you made your patties.
7. The last few minute of cooking put a slice of cheese on top your patty.
8.  While the cheese is melting, toast your buns on the top rack of the grill.
9.  Gently place your perfect burger between your lightly toasted buns, and pile with your favorite toppings.  

                                      Stay tuned next week for the best hamburger buns ever!

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma via Annie's Eats

Posted by: Sallie
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