Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce

The ultimate comfort food. A dense lasagna with hearty meat sauce and an abundance of cheese.

Yesterday flew by.  Like I went into the office at 7:30 and before I knew it it was noon. Not that I mind too much.  I was super glad when the day was done but man Monday almost didn't exist for me. I am torn about whether or not I want the trend to continue today.

After a day like Monday all I want is to come home to a nice comforting meal. For me, that meal is lasagna. Lasagna was something I always requested from my mom when I came home from college. There is just something about the layered pasta, red sauce, and cheesy goodness that I cannot get enough of. 

This meal is a little time consuming for a week night but in my mind it is well worth the extra effort. Plus it leaves plenty of leftovers.  I will be eating this all week long.

Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce

by Emily Morris
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: bake entree ground beef pasta Italian
Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 6 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces extra-lean ground beef (93% lean)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned crushed tomatoes
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine ricotta, about 1/2 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons parsley, oregano, 1 garlic clove, and egg; set aside.

Place ground beef in a large non­stick skillet over medium-high heat; sprinkle with peppers and remaining 4 garlic cloves. Cook for 9 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble; drain. Return beef mixture to pan; stir in marinara sauce, and remove from heat.
Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce in bottom of a broiler-safe 11 x 7–inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Arrange 4 noodles along the bottom of the dish. Top noodles with 1 cup meat sauce, and then 1/2 of the ricotta mixture. Repeat.

Arrange remaining 4 noodles on top. Spread remaining meat sauce over top noodles. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 4 ounces (1 cup) mozzarella cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Preheat broiler to high. (Keep lasagna in oven.)

Broil lasagna for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Best Ever Brownie #secretrecipeclub

Super gooey chocolate brownies make for a decadent treat. Best when served warm with a scoop of ice cream and a glass of milk.

Although this pregnancy feels like it is going so slow, my days and months are flying by. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my September Secret Recipe Club post.  As the norm, I got my assigned secret blog at the beginning of the month.  I spent the last few weeks perusing potential recipes all for today's reveal post.

This month I had food.baby.life.  I had fun reading her blog and learning about her life with baby.  I am keeping a pretty open mind about what my expectations will be once our baby comes but I love sneaking a peak at others' experiences.  

Susan loves baking, having the occasional indulgence of sweet treats and has a hobby of collecting cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. 

As was looking for a recipe I was so close to making this cinnamon raisin bread but at the last minute I decided I wanted needed some chocolate.  These brownies were jumping out of the computer screen with their rick, gooey center. Plus it is pretty hard to resist something called the best ever brownies.

I didn't have a mini loaf pan so I multiplied the original recipe to fit a 9x9 inch brownie pan. This may not have been the best idea as that basically quadrupled the amount of available brownies. These were so yummy and it was hard not to eat the whole pan at once.  They heat up really nicely though so it was like a fresh brownie each time if I popped it into the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Best Ever Brownie

by Emily Morris, adapted from food.baby.life
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert chocolate brownies
Ingredients (serves 9)
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is almost smooth. Remove from heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted into the butter.

Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer and whisk by hand just to combine. Little by little, pour half the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.

Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are pale, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.

When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 9-inch square glass or ceramic pan. Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry. The top should be just barely set and center still gooey. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack. Cut into bars and serve.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indianapolis, Bread and cheese and #WIAW

Yesterday I hopped on a plane and made my way to Indiana for the week. I neglected to check out the weather ahead of my trip and I am afraid the 40 degree temperatures this morning are going to be quite chilly for my dresses.  Brrr....

I have been in a pretty basic food rut lately.  Breakfast seems to be the best meal of the day. When I am home I can get lots of fruits and veggies in a smoothie. When I am traveling I try to get some protein with eggs. This omelette also had spinach, onions, and green peppers. And these potato bites were so good. Very crisp and hot.  

Lunch has been increasingly hard to find something I like.  If we go to a sandwich spot, 90% of the options have cold deli meat. A big no no for pregnant women.  I have been leaning toward grilled cheese. I am all about bread and cheese.  This had a side of pickle.  

Another favorite right now is cheese pizza. I could probably have something like this every day.  This flat bread was particularly good. I always get to the last two pieces and think I probably shouldn't eat anymore but it is so good why not?  And then I finish it off. 

Snacks have been almonds, apples and chocolate chip cookies. I am going to be pretty sad when the fresh, local apples are no more. I am all about an apple a day right now. 

Do you ever get in a food rut?

If you want to join the fun for #WIAW check out Peas and Crayons.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meatopia X and #NYCWFF

Oh my goodness was this past weekend was exhausting. It pretty much takes me one full day to catch up from the week with cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. By the time that is done, I am wiped out. This past weekend I tackled everything on Saturday because we had a special day planned for Sunday.

This year for the New York City Wine and Food festival we decided to switch things up a bit from our usual Grand Tasting event to a more specialized tasting. When we were perusing the options one immediately jumped out at Mr. J. It was Meatopia. As you can imagine it was all things meat.  And they all had to be cooked over open fire. Since Mr. J's birthday is in October we decided this would be his birthday celebration. 

Of course we bought these tickets before I knew I was or was going to be pregnant.  And although I need my iron intake, this meat fill event was a bit much for me.  That being said I had plenty to eat and truly enjoyed myself. 

As I said, this was all things meat. Every where you looked there were animals.  The photo above was from Range @BryanVoltaggio booth.  It was the biggest bone I have ever seen. 

Half of the event was held outside to accommodate all of the open fires. My jacket still smells like campfire. The other portion was in a tent.  The main highlight was the 1,000 pound steer. They carved this right up in front of you.  It was slow cooked for 24 hours and served with Madeira, prunes, mashed potatoes and thyme.

I stuck to more basic dishes like the anchovy buttered ribeye. Mr. J enjoyed a bit more exotic plates like the beef heart below. His favorite was the tripe and yellow-eyed pea stew with blood sausage from Toro NYC @Jamiebiss. 

Another one if his favorites was this pastrami sandwich from the Glen Oak Club.  It was a Dr. Brown's Cream-soda brined smoked short rib pastrami sandwich with homemade rye, vegetable pickles and mustard horseradish. 

The event hosted chefs from all over the world and they were clearly artisans of meat.  The food was fantastic all around. We always enjoyed the Grand Tasting event but if you are looking for some really amazing, unique experiences an event like this is what you need to attend. We are already planning to so another specialized tasting at next year's festival.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baked Potato Soup

Soup is one of my most favorite things to eat. If I could pick only one thing to eat for the rest of my life soup would be up there on my list. I don't know if that is a fair answer since soup is a broad category in and of itself but we are going to go with it. 

With the weather turning cold, I am even more excited about eating soup.  Plus if you make a big pot over the weekend it will last you all week long. Three cheers for easy leftover meals. 

Mr. J doesn't have nearly as much enthusiasm for soup as I do so I really have to talk it up ahead of time. This baked potato soup didn't take much effort.  Thick chunks of potatoes loaded with cheese, bacon and scallions.  Totally man soup.  

The first bowls were paired with grilled cheese sandwiches.  And now we have lunch all week long. 

Baked Potato Soup

by Emily Morris
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: saute soup/stew bacon potatoes
Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 7C potatoes (or roughly 6 medium)
  • 1C yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 C plain yogurt
  • 3 slices thick cut bacon
  • Shredded Cheese of your choice
  • Chopped Scallions
Prepare potatoes by peeling and chopping into small chunks, roughly 1" in size.
Place a 8 qt pot of water on high. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook for 8-10 minutes until just soft. When done, drain and set aside until onions are cooked.

Meanwhile, in another large soup pot over medium heat cook bacon. Drain on paper towels. Use a paper towel to careful wipe up some of the bacon grease, leaving just enough to cook the onions and garlic. Chop bacon, set aside.

Add all vegetables to pot with bacon grease. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook on medium low until the onions soften, about 10-15 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and add potatoes to pot.

Remove 1/3-1/2 of the soup mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth. Return to pot. Stir and cover, continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes or until heated through.

When ready to serve, garnish with shredded and bacon, and scallions.

May be stored chilled for up to several days.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

Taste the essence of fall with these apple cinnamon donuts with cinnamon sugar.

Happy Sunday!!  This is the first weekend in a long time that we were home. Just the two of us. With no major projects to get done.  And beside the cold temperatures and rainy weather it was wonder.  Even those things weren't too bad. Bring on the soup, sweat pants and movies.  

Mr. J loves apple cider donuts.  Heck, he loves all donuts but in the fall he really loves these.  We have an orchard quite close by and he tends to drop in often to get his fix.  Sadly a lot of the time they aren't hot.  When it comes to apple cider donuts they need to be hot in my mind.  I guess I am picky like that.  

So as a special treat I decided to bake up some of our own apple cider donuts.  Enjoyed (maybe a bit too much) straight out of the oven.

These donuts come together super fast and don't requite any fancy ingredients. Unless of course you count apple cider as super fancy. I used the cider from our local orchard. It is so thick and flavorful I probably could have skipped the instructions below for reducing the mixture. 

We had our fill and then ate the rest the following morning.  A few seconds in the microwave do the fix if you like them warm like me. 

Apple Cinnamon Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

by Emily Morris
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast apple fall
Ingredients (18 donuts or 36 donut holes)
    For the Donuts:
    • 1 and 1/4 cups apple cider
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 large egg, room temperature
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    For the topping:
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    First, simmer apple cider over low-medium heat in a small saucepan on the stove for 15-20 minutes until reduced. You will need 1/2 cup of reduced cider. Transfer cider to a separate container and allow to cool in the refrigerator as make the donuts.

    Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Spray a mini muffin pan or donut pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of the cooled apple cider reduction.

    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently mix together with a whisk. Whisk until all ingredients are just combined. It is OK if small lumps remain, but not many.
    Pour the batter into the mini muffin pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. You'll only need a couple teaspoons of batter for each. Do the same if you are making whole donuts. 

    Bake the donut holes for 9-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The donuts will take the same amount of time.

    For the topping:
    Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Dip the donuts all the way into the cinnamon sugar, using your hands to mix it around so the entire donut hole (or donut) is coated generously. Repeat with all the donuts.
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    Thursday, October 9, 2014

    Baby Update: Week 19

    I have wanted to make a post of thoughts since even before the announcement went out but my head is  literally all over the place.  I can think of a list of things I want to mention and if I don't write it down immediately I will forget.

    Being pregnant is different than anything I have ever experienced or expected. Let's just say it is not like in the movies where a woman finds out she is pregnant. She grows a beautiful belly and in about five minutes she is at home caring for her lovely baby. Not that I expected exactly that but seriously...not even close. 

    I feel like I have been pregnant FOREVER and I am not even halfway there. Dear lord!  I didn't really get morning sickness. I haven't felt great for the last four months or so but I wasn't never really sick. Just tired.  Always. The most indecisive ever. Completely indifferent about food.  Uncomfortable. 

    I am a doer and not having the ambitious to do anything for hours, days, weeks and at this point months is just weird.  

    Given that I haven't been sick I feel lucky. Given that we just had the anatomy ultrasound and our little baby has 2 feet, 2 hands, a heart and brain I feel incredibly lucky.  

    My clothes just started to not fit. I put on the one pair of pants I thought I could wear on Monday only to dread that decision by 3 pm.  If only sweatpants, yoga pants, and sweatshirts were acceptable for all occasions.  I have a dress and one pair of non-maternity pants with an elastic waist that I wear to every single business meeting. My office is pretty causal so maternity jeans are totally OK.  I have a few more skirts and dresses I will wear as long as it doesn't get too cold. 

    I haven't had food cravings or aversions. Anything I didn't like before I still don't like. I still eat anything I used to eat if it isn't banned. Do you know the restrictions for pregnancy now?  Pretty much everything.  Not that it is that big of deal.  Like I said, I am more indifferent about food than anything. No energy to make dinner grilled cheese, cereal simple things are the most appealing. Of course if you want to bring me a salad or anything else I will eat it...as long as I don't have to do the dishes too. 

    I still go to the gym most days.  I try to walk 60 minutes each day. It ranges though from 30-60 minutes and my speed has gone from a 4.0 on the treadmill to 3.8.  I always walked fast.  Mr. J says I am slow now but that my slow is really normally speed for most people. I guess that should make me feel better.

    The main project right now is getting the nursery in shape.  The baby room is the room we haven't touched since we moved in a little more than a year ago.  We have some projects to tackle in the next few weeks and I am hopeful that by the end of the month it will be in a spot where I can actually picture a baby. 

    So that's it for now...I haven't decided how often I will being doing these updates.  But hopefully you won't mind of few posts about the baby here and there.  

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    Eating all day long...WIAW

    I wish it was Friday. The first half of this week has been trying. Luckily I am home all week long. That hasn't happened in a long while.  Somehow though being home all week means lots of extra work.  Work I already expected plus a whole bunch more always gets added.  

    Being home also means plenty of food availability.  I have been told more than once that being pregnant means I can eat whatever I want. This is so NOT true.  And so not nice to tell someone when they're belly is growing nonstop uncontrollably.  Being healthy does not mean eating all day long, anything I want. In fact some days I don't even want to eat and the act of finding food is quite the task. 

    Other days I do want to eat all day long.  But even then finding food that satisfies me is also a trying task. Eating was never such an arduous task before becoming pregnant.  Yesterday I was pretty hungry all day long. I had breakfast. My normal smoothie with spinach, banana, coconut milk, OJ, and peanut butter.  Then I had my first snack at 10am.  I am not a snacker but I have been pretty good about having little food packets with me at all times.  

    Lunch was leftover Italian chicken sausage with onions and peppers.  It tastes better than it looks. There was a whole bunch of cheese under that sausage.

    I basically can never last from lunch to dinner (even though we eat dinner like we are 80 years old at 6pm)  so around 4pm I make sure I eat something else.  This week has been yogurt and apples.  This Brown Cow maple yogurt is so good. The cream on top makes it extra rich.  Just like dessert.

    Dinner was whipped up by Mr. J. Breaded pork cutlets with steamed broccoli and smashed squash.  It was so good and for once in the last week I was full after finishing off the plate. 

    What is your favorite go to snack?  What did you eat Wednesday?

    Tuesday, October 7, 2014

    What I have been reading lately...

    I haven't done a very good job keeping up with informing you on new reads. Hell I haven't done a good job keeping up with most things these days. But today I have a two for one deal. Hopefully it will make up a bit for my slacking.

    I don't know what I was getting into when I picked up Someone Else's Love Story.  The book is about Shandi Pierce, a young single mother who is trying to juggle finishing college with her genius three year old boy. Hoping to make things easier by moving closer to her school, she stops on the way and ends up in a gas station robbery.  The experience leaves her with a new relationship from the person who saves her and her son's lives and changes the relationships she has with her family, her best friend, and herself. Within these relationships new loves are found and old ones are rekindled. You learn science from miracles and the truth about faith, love and forgiveness.

    The Matchmaker is about Dabney Beech who has lived on Nantucket all her life. She has a gift for matchmaking and has been doing so since high school.  Her luck with others seems to be better than her own.  The story details Dabney's former matches in between the current happens of Dabney's life, her relationship with her husband, her daughter's relationship with her fiance and her relationship with the former love of her life.  There are all sorts of ups, downs and twists that keep you entertained from page one.  The story scripts each character on such a personal level you don't know who you should be rooting for.

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Browned Butter M&M cookies

    This weekend we tackled more house work.  We finished the exterior trim of the windows.  It looks so good. Almost too good because not the paint job on the rest of the house is not too hot.  I am still debating about the shutters. I figure we should wait a while before deciding. The white trim makes the windows pop way more than before even without the shutters.

    Since I wasn't climbing the latter or hauling away debris I thought I would make some cookies. The working men needed to eat and who doesn't like a good cookie. 

    I had some mini M&M's on hand.  They are too cute.  I couldn't resist throwing them into a cookie.  To make them a little extra special I used browned butter.  I am telling you it is kind of like the miracle drug for baked goods.  They are just so much better with browned butter. 

    You take these cookies out a bit early and they finish cooking on the hot cookie sheet. This leaves a soft, gooey center. This along with the nutty browned butter taste and you have one heck of a cookie. 

    Needless to say the cookies didn't last long. I wish I had had one or two more before they were gone.  

    Browned Butter M&M Cookies

    by Emily Morris
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Keywords: bake dessert cookie
    Ingredients (24 cookies)
    • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup M&M's
    Melt unsalted butter in a saucepan stirring with a whisk. The butter will begin to bubble and get a bit foamy. Continue whisking as the butter changes to an amber brown. When you begin to see brown specks in the butter, remove it from heat. You now have browned butter. Pour into a shallow dish and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

    In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the solid browned butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy.
    Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

    In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick.

    Add the M&Ms and mix for about 5 seconds until evenly disbursed. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Do not bake the dough right away; the dough will be too soft and the cookies will spread.

    Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

    Roll balls of dough to form cookies, about 1 Tablespoon of dough for each cookie. The dough will be crumbly but should be easier to work with as it warms up.

    Bake for 8-9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. They will look extremely soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Gently press down on each cookie to flatten into disks with the back of a spoon. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
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