Lasagna Squash Roll-Ups – Stocking the Pantry for Laziness

photo-2I am a big proponent of stocking the pantry.  I’ll always have fresh spices, pasta, marinara, chicken stock (goldfish) and plenty of other worthy components.  I do this out of pure laziness (and fear of the zombie apocalypse my two sons keep telling me about).  It has been cold man!  And it is Thanksgiving week.  Two reason NOT to go to the grocery store.  Well and my bedroom fireplace.  Okay, three reasons to not go to the grocery store.

And cozy pants.

Okay stop!  There is always a reason to not go to the grocery store.  Oooh!  Also I do like a good challenge.  Kind of like Chopped.  I like to see what I have and test my culinary abilities to see if I can come up with a scrumptious and nutritious meal for my family.

Ultimately – pure laziness.

One more: frugality.  Want to make Ben Frank proud.

So here I am (in Christmas flannel pajamas [hotness]and I realize that I’m hungry – never mind my children whining at my ankles.  So I check out my pantry.  In the back of my head I know that I have some zucchini and summer squash that need to be used as well as the remainder of the pumpkin I cooked.  So  squash meal.  Then I eye those lasagna noodles that have been in my pantry for (let’s not go there) so here we go…

This is what I did but please know that this is a very versatile recipe.  Use meat if you so desire.  Use different cheeses (um, yum!).  Add different veggies.

This recipe rocks because:

  • Already paid for
  • All-in-one meal
  • Easy peezy lemon squeezy (compliments of my 4-year-old)
  • Remain in PJ’s all freakin’ day long
  • Guaranteed leftovers
  • Nutritious
  • Warm
  • Delicious

Happy cooking friends.  I’m thankful for you.

 

Ingredients

Cheese "log" I got on clearance and froze until I needed it...today.  Take it out of the freezer the day prior to needing it for proper defrosting.

Cheese “log” I got on clearance and froze until I needed it…today. Take it out of the freezer the day prior and defrost in your fridge.

20 lasagna noodles (19 if you’re on meds)

1 jar of marinara

1 cheese log (NOTHING that is to be consumed should ever have the word log in it – although I am laughing at my clearance purchase – see right)

2 summer squash

2 zucchini

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 cup of parmesan cheese (shredded)

1 teaspoon salt, pepper, garlic powder

1 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin

1 egg

Special equipment: mandolin (or laser)

Preparation

Boil lasagna noodles in salted water until just al dente.  I like to use a deep fry pan so that they fit.

Boil lasagna noodles in salted water until just al dente. I like to use a deep fry pan so that they fit.

I had to do 3 batches, needing to add more water prior to the third batch.

I had to do 3 batches, needing to add more water prior to the third batch.

Using about a 1/2 cup of marinara - cover the bottom of a lasagna pan.

Using about a 1/2 cup of marinara – cover the bottom of a lasagna pan.

Get the laser powered on…

...Or if you are using a mandolin, slice squash and zucch's to about an 8th of an inch thick.  Keeping those first funky stragglers!  Nothing goes to waste...

…Or if you are using a mandolin, slice squash and zucch’s to about an 8th of an inch thin.  Make sure to cut the ends off of each zucchini and squash prior to slicing.  Blanch the sliced zucchini and squash in the noodle water for about 3 minutes.  Not only to get a head start on cooking but also to become more malleable.

Keep those funky beginning and end bits.  Nothing goes to waste!

Keep those funky beginning and end bits. Nothing goes to waste!

Get your big mixing bowl out ready to be filled…

Chop those end bits and mix with parmesean cheese, pumpkin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, ricotta and egg.  Blend well.

Chop those end bits and add in that gorgeous mixing bowl: parmesan cheese, pumpkin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, ricotta and egg. Blend well.

Take those al dente lasagna pasta’s out of the salt water and start rollin’ babe.

Start out with your ricotta mixture and place about 2 tablespoons onto a noodle.

Start out with your ricotta mixture and place about 2 tablespoons onto a noodle.

Top with a slice each of zucchini and squash.

Top with a slice each of zucchini and squash.

Gently roll and place, seam side down, into the lasagna pan.  Repeat 18 or 19 more times.

Gently roll and place, seam side down, into the lasagna pan. Repeat 18 or 19 more times.

Shhhh-if you have any leftover squash or zucch, just break in half and add to pan somewhere.  Remember-nothing goes to waste!

Top the rolls with the remainder of the marinara. (Shhhh-if you have any leftover squash or zucch, just break in half and add to pan somewhere. Remember-nothing goes to waste!).

 

If

you

are

OCD

look

away

NOW!

 

Like I mentioned above - use 19 lasagna noodles if you are on your meds.  Use 20 if you are not.  Or use all you had like I did (19).  Thankfully I'm on my meds.

Like I mentioned above – use 19 lasagna noodles if you are on your meds. Use 20 if you are not. Or use all you had like I did (19). Oy.

Top with your cheese "log."  Feel free to top with shredded mozz in lieu of a log.  Log log log log.  If it's so gross, why can't I stop saying it!?  log.

Top with your cheese “log.” Feel free to top with shredded mozz in lieu of a log. Log log log log. If it’s so gross, why can’t I stop saying it!? log.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

photo 1-5

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Squash/zucch ends
  • Egg shell

Recycle

  • Marinara jar/lid
  • Parmesan cheese container

Reuse

  • That’s what we be doin’!

Organic Roasted Marinara ~ How to Never Waste Another Veggie, Ever Again

IMG_2646You know those days where you look in your refrigerator crispers and realize, whoops.  There’s that bunch of vine now really ripened tomatoes.  Oh yeah, and those bell peppers that were on sale for a ridiculous steal.  Oh hey, look at you broccolini – you had looked so gourmet sittin’ upon that shelf at the grocery store. OR… Your vegetable garden is just spittin’ it all out at once.  Zuch’s, tomatoes, greens, carrots, etc. Well, why buy it and/or grow it –  and not use it? I had purchased from our co-op at the school and realized that nobody in my family loves bell peppers or tomatoes except me.  And the broccolini is looking pretty limp these days so I decided to roast them all at once, puree and serve the best marinara my fam has ever had.

IMG_2637

Oh beautiful, wilted veggies. You can still be enjoyed…

This is a no-brainer.  But just in case you have forgotten, or needed a gentle reminder or a fast idea, here you go. Also, this is great to make and freeze. OR… Make on Sunday, then cook in the crock pot all day Monday so that you have an easy dinner of just boiling noodles when you get home.  Either way, throw away your Fabreeze (you should never use that crap anyways) because you don’t need any other home fragrance than roasting vegetables.

Them be roasted...

Them be roasted…

You can always puree until creamy and make it into a soup. Yum. Although my littles and I enjoyed this vegetarian meal, I did add some spicy Italian sausages to the mix for my husband who appreciates meat at every meal.

Ingredients

(Here is what I used, please feel free to substitute) 5 organic tomatoes, quartered

Spicy Italian sausage will take your marinara to the wild side.

Spicy Italian sausage will take your marinara to the wild side.

5 organic red bell peppers, quartered

1 red organic onion, quartered

1/4 cup olive oil – about

kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

1 bunch of organic, home-grown garlic – halved

1 bunch organic broccolini

Optional:

1 package spicy Italian sausage, browned in a saucepan

red wine

parmesan cheese

garlic bread

green, crisp salad

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl mix first 5 ingredients together until all vegetables are thoroughly coated with oil, salt and pepper.  Spread out onto a lined baking sheet.  Add garlic and broccolini, sprinkle with more olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through completely.
  3. Remove garlic cloves from husks.
  4. Either blend in a blender or process in a food processor until…

Soup:

  1. Puree until no longer lumpy.  Add to stockpot and simmer for at least an hour.  Add some vegetable stock until the soup is at the constancy you prefer soup to be at.
  2. Serve with garlic bread.

IMG_2639Marinara sauce:

  1. Puree vegetables until the consistency of your desire for a marinara sauce.  I like it a bit chunky, but not much.  Remember, the chunkier – the larger noodle to serve with.
  2. Add puree to either a crock pot on low or a braiser.  Add sausage and simmer for several hours.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • All vegetable trimmings

Recycle

  • Olive oil bottle, if empty

Reuse

  • The epitome of this recipe

Southwest Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos ~ The Smell of Crisp

photo 2-2Do you smell that?

Heavenly scent.

Go ahead, take a moment and smell that air outside.  Especially at night.

When the world has settled,

your day has calmed,

and all responsibility has dimmed.

I’m not sure what it is about this crisp, Autumn air.  Why my mind and body react the way they do when I smell it.  I remember smelling that crisp air growing up.  You could catch me at any given age, on any given night with my nose pressed against the screen of my cracked-open window.

Sniffing.

Smelling.

Embracing the changing seasons and all its glory.  Fall.  We all know my fascination.  Obsession.  The magical – all too crisp air.

This dish is perfect for such a night.  All day long the crock pot was doing the cooking as I was doing the working.  I spent just about 4 minutes preparing the crock pot in the morning and when the kids and I walked into the house at the end of the day we were enveloped with the most tasty smells.  Even my youngest was like “Mom!  Do you smell that delicious smell!?”

Yes.I.Do.

My good friend had inquired if I had any good crock pot recipes up my sleeve and so I decided to do some experimenting.  This my friends, was a successful experiment.  Now I am all about using fresh, local, organic foods but seriously – if none are available…look harder!

No, just use frozen organic corn if you don’t want to use fresh.  Make it as easy as you want.  All I gotta say is please, please don’t tweak the measurements of the seasonings.  The taste was perfection.

Do you live above 5000 feet elevation?  Check out an addition after the recipe.

Vegetarian?  Supplement bell peppers, sliced onions, chayote, tomatillos instead.

Like red meat instead?  Add a roast to the pot instead of chicken.

Add a fresh side salad consisting of some organic greens with crisp radishes, jicama, carrots and green onions and you have yourselves one heck of a well balanced – healthy meal.

Happy slow-cooking friends.

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts
1 (16oz) jar salsa
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained/rinsed
2 corn on the cobs, corn removed
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp cumin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt

Trimmings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped onions, sour cream, corn or flour tortillas

Preparation

1. Add everything except the trimmings to the slow cooker along with ¼ cup of water.  Stir well.

2. Turn slow cooker on low and cook 7-8 hours.

3. Near the end of the cooking time shred chicken or beef using two forks.

4. After 8 hours of cooking and utilizing the trimmings, build yourself a delicious tacos/burritos.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Add two cups of chicken stock at Step 1.

Compost

  • Corn cobs/husks
  • Cilantro trimmings

Recycle

  • Salsa jar/lid
  • Bean can/lid

Reuse

  • Double recipe and freeze some for another time…

Linguine with Crab, Lemon, Chile and Mint – Manifesting Dreams into Kauai

imagesRemember when I was all nostalgic about Kauai?  Hoping I would be able to go?  I mean, the last time I was there it was 2009 and my first-born was only 15 months old and my youngest was about to become a reality.

Well, for two FULL weeks this summer, my boys and I are going to Kauai.  The cool thing about this trip is that my boys are bigger.  They’ll be able to hang on to the memories.

The most magical parts about this trip:

  1. I get to see Kauai for the first time again, through the eyes of my two sons.
  2. I get to see my Dad…
  3. …be a Granddad to my kids.

We’ll take them to their first luau.  Spend our days at Anini beach.  Go see the light house on the way to see their Nana Tutu at work.  Kayak up the Wailua river then hike to Rainbow Falls….bare foot.

They’ll get to fall asleep to the sounds of bugs, birds, rain and wake up to the chickens, roosters, birds, bugs and rain.  They’ll get to follow my Dad, their Grandfather, around in his glorious garden.  See how to shuck macadamia nuts, harvest pineapple and pull weeds.

They’ll get to see butterflies colors they only thought could be drawn on paper, swim in a sea that envelopes you in warmth, eat banana macadamia nut pancakes and see Spouting Horn in all its spouting glory.

They’ll get to see a movie, on an island in the middle of the pacific.

Go to story time at a Kauai library.

Meet friends on the North Shore and pick star fruit off their trees.

Go to the end of the road and hike to a lagoon just a mile or two hanging off the edge of the island.

Go eat food and have the coolest waiter there.

Hear my Dad singing.  Listen to his stories.

See a color so green it seems magical, yet it’s all around you.

Plumeria’s.

Ginger.

Night blooming jasmine.

Learn to hula.

Hike the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Seek secret beaches.

Pu pu’s and virgin mango colada’s at Brennecke’s.

Swim in Queen’s Bath with giant green sea turtles.

Maybe watch my Dad play ball in Hanapepe.

We’re going to Kauai.

For two full weeks.

And after writing this, I’m not sure

a return ticket was necessary.

Pasta-crab-lemon-chile-mint.

Need I say more?!  This dinner was a great weeknight meal.  Easy and fast to pull together.  Add some steamed organic peas or asparagus make this a complete meal.

I was lucky enough to have sent to me a box full of citrus from my in-laws in Southern California.  Nothing beats a California lemon.  Eureka!  This recipe is compliments of Bon Appetit Magazine circa January 2012.  I have changed nothing as I encourage you to do the same.

Happy cooking friends.  Aloha!

Ingredients

8 ounces linguine
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1–2 Fresno chiles, red jalapeños, or red Thai chiles, seeded, sliced into thin rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated lemon zest, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked, shelled Dungeness crab, king crab, or jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, gently torn, divided

Preparation

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and stir until just soft, 3–4 minutes. Add garlic and 1 chile and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 tablespoons pasta cooking liquid to shallot mixture; add a pinch of pepper. Stir until liquid is almost evaporated, about 1 minute.
  4. Transfer pasta to skillet and add 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, tossing pasta or stirring with tongs, until liquid is almost evaporated and pasta becomes glossy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, crab, half of mint, and more chile rounds, if desired.
  5. Stir pasta until butter melts and pasta is well coated, adding more pasta cooking liquid if dry. Divide between bowls; top with remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest and mint. Sprinkle with more lemon juice if desired.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Shallot, garlic, chile, lemon and mint trimmings

Recycle

  • Pasta packaging
  • Crab packaging – rinsed

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables and fruit came in.

Healthy Lasagna: Embracing the Roller Coaster of Change

Notice the little boy running to his seat in the background.  The savory, delicious smell permeated the whole house.

Notice the little boy running to his seat…the savory deliciousness permeated the whole house.

Wow.

What a week.

To say the least.

The roller coaster of going through an experience is exhausting.  When I first got on the ride, it was in August and although hectic, it was not scary.  So then I hit the first major dip of the ride and instantly I am struck with panic:

No.no.no.  I want to get off this ride.  I can’t handle it.  Too scary.

Enter life lesson:

Don’t get off the ride prematurely.  Don’t act on those first initial emotions.

As soon as I was able to welcome and honor the sadness, betrayel….change.  I was then able to let all of the rest go…embracing the latter.  I was able to feel those extreme emotions, sense that I wanted to jump but hung in there knowing that as long as I am in that emotional place, I am not connected to my higher power.  That I need to work past that initial shock, regain my balance, see the bigger picture (primary purpose), put my hands up in the air and fly.

So that’s what I did.  Along with my fellow co-workers.  The ride is far from over.  But what I will forever hold dear was honoring all our different emotional stages without judgement.  Ultimately we stand as one, shoulder to shoulder with our intentions on the primary purpose.  We will prevail.  And we will be stronger for it.  So will the school and ultimately…the children.

My major life lesson, which helps me to know that I actually am teachable and that I do retain new thoughts and actions:

I was able to sit comfortably in my uncertainty with blind faith.

So after that week I was still a mom, a wife and hungry.  I wanted something comforting, yet healthy so I chose this lasagna dish compliments of Food Network Magazine circa May 2013.

 The beauty of this recipe is not only the fact that it is quick enough to make after work, or that it can technically be a one-pot meal, but that it is so very interchangeable.  And an excellent way to hide the goodness of vegetables to those picky ones who despise anything green.  Some options that would be delectable in lieu of the celery and carrot mixture:

  • Spinach and mushroom
  • Butternut squash and kale
  • Pumpkin and sausage

The light bechamel sauce that you make is outstanding.  You would never know there are no creams or milks in this dish.

Relax and relish in the fact that this lasagna is healthy.  I hope we all can learn to embrace the ever inevitable change that life brings us.

Happy cooking friends.

Ingredients

9 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles

1 small shallot

3 cups fat-free low-sodium organic vegetable or chicken stock

3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh organic parsley

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped celery

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)

1 large egg

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

Preparation

  1. Position a rack int he upper third of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees.  Fill a bowl with hot water; add the noodles and soak 10 minutes.  Drain and hang side by side over the bowl’s edge so the noodles don’t stick.
  2. Meanwhile, mince the shallot in  food processor.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot and 1 cup of broth; cook 3 minutes.  Add the flour and nutmeg; whisk until smooth, 1 minute.  Whisk in the remaining 2 cups broth; cook, whisking, until thickened, 7 minutes.  Whisk in 1/4 cup ricotta and the parsley; remove from heat.
  3. Mince the celery and carrots in the food processor.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and the egg; pulse until smooth.  Spread 2 tablespoons of the shallot sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.  Top with 3 noodles and half of the mozzarella mixture.  Repeat the layers, ending with the noodles.  Top with the remaining shallot sauce, the tomatoes and the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.  Bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Shallot, parsley celery, carrot and tomato trimmings
  • Egg shell

Recycle

  • Broth container/lid
  • Ricotta cheese container/lid
  • Mozzarella cheese packaging

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables came in

Fall Celebration – A Sweet Party

fallA month back I thought.  Damn.  I love Fall.  I love Fall so much.  I want to marry Fall.  And in true form, instead of celebrating nuptials with a season I decided to throw a party for my love of pumpkin, apples, cinnamon and wood burning fires.

That we did.  We had a fire going on inside, a bon fire going on outside.  A drum circle started in the sunroom and kids with capes and swords were running around the house playing and happy.  Some were cozied up on the couch with a warm drink and food.  Some were accumulated around the fire outside roasting marshmallows and enjoying a beer.  Some were jumping on our trampoline in the dark and some were playing horseshoes with the lanterns we had lit.  All was fabulous.  Worth the hard work in preparation.  A good night.

I decided to throw this party....eco friendly style.  All real plates, utensils and cloth napkins.

I decided to throw this party….eco friendly style. All real plates, utensils and cloth napkins.

Although the guest list seem to grow on a daily basis, I thought….it can still be a green party.  We can do this.  Even if it means washing or running the dishwasher.  But alas, I seemed to have accumulated plenty of dishes throughout my years.  Thanks to Grandma’s who clean out their kitchens.

To make my life easier as now I am a working person, I decided to make this pot luck style.  We’ll supply the desserts and drinks, you come and bring a savory dish.  Voila, the party was born.  I wanted to start planning.  So drinks…

Mulled hot cider, pumpkin spice coffee, a cooler full of Izze's and water and of course....a keg.

Mulled hot cider, pumpkin spice coffee, a cooler full of Izze’s and water and of course….a keg.

Next I needed to decide on the plethora of desserts.  Thanks to Fall themed magazines, this was quite the easy task.

Apple cider doughnuts and mini-spiced cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.

Apple cider doughnuts and mini-spiced cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.

And because I am crazy, and unable to stop there, I decided to add…

Pumpkin Chocolate Tiramisu and fresh apple slices with a warm caramel dip.

Pumpkin Chocolate Tiramisu and fresh apple slices with a warm caramel dip.

I decided to start off the savory dishes with a pumpkin macaroni and cheese and was excited to watch this table fill up with all kinds of yummy dishes...

I wanted to kick-off the savory dishes with a pumpkin macaroni and cheese and was excited to watch this table fill up with all kinds of yummy dishes…

Here are my afterthoughts for throwing an eco-friendly party for about 50 people:

  • I’ll do it again.  Yes, I was nervous people would feel inclined to do dishes so I tried to intercept as much as possible.
  • Yes, I was nervous about the small children and glass dishes.  But our friends are very involved, responsible parents and I didn’t feel I needed to micro-manage.
  • No, the dishes did not pile up, I simply rinsed and loaded my dishwasher.
  • In the end, I didn’t have enough utensils, so plastic was succumbed to toward the very end of the night when seconds on the desserts were being consumed.
  • Using real plates, utensils and cloth napkins made me feel better about my décor (let alone the minimal waste aspect).

Recipes

Apple Cider Doughnut Holes

These were great although I doubled the recipe and tried to incorporate high-altitude adjustments.  Don’t.  They don’t need more flour or less baking powder.  I made the batter too thick and needed to add more baking powder at the last-minute because I didn’t add the full amount at the beginning.  So my suggestion, make as is.  Don’t double, don’t adjust.  These were yummos.  Thanks Rachael Ray Magazine.

Ingredients

1 cup cider

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 egg

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups vegetable oil, for frying

Preparation

  1. In a small saucepan, boil the cider until it reduces to 2/3 cup, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the butter and stir until melted; remove from heat and let cool.  Whisk in the egg.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the salt.  Stir in the cider mixture until just blended.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 10 tablespoons of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.
  4. In a large saucepan, het the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 340 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  5. When the oil is hot, drop 5 -6 tablespoon-sized scoops of dough into the oil.  Fry, turning, until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per batch.  Transfer the doughnuts to the baking sheet and let cool.  Toss with the cinnamon sugar.

Chocolate Pumpkin Tiramisu

A few things, I tripled this recipe because of the size of the crowd.  Now I am known for making way too much.  Well, that was way  too much.  Also, I had made this without the bourbon, but alas, I am sure the bourbon would have added much more flavor.  Use the liquor.  Also, up on this insane mountain top there was not to be found any Italian ladyfingers so I had to succumb to the bakery ladyfingers that are basically sponge cake.  Lesson learned.  Don’t do that.  If you are unable to find Italian ladyfingers, the hard cookie, use a shortbread cookie.  The sponge cake just mushed in with the ricotta filling.  No fun.  You want that element of crunch and you want to soak the cookies in that delectable mixture this recipe calls for.  Thanks again Rachael Ray Mag…

Ingredients

1 bar (3.5 oz) dark chocolate (50-60% cacao)

3/4 cup hot coffee (I used pumpkin spice coffee)

5 tablespoons bourbon

1 1/2 cups mascaropone

1 cup confectioners sugar

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 package (7oz) Italian ladyfingers (about 24 cookies)

Preparation

  1. On a cutting board, coarsely chop half the chocolate.  Transfer to a large bowl, add the coffee and whisk until the chocolate melts.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons bourbon.
  2. In a another bowl, combine the mascarpone, confectioners sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon and the remaining 3 tablespoons bourbon.  Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin; mix on medium-low until blended and creamy.
  3. Working with about 1/3 of the ladyfingers, dip and roll the cookies, one at a time, in the chocolate mixture until soaked but not soggy, 3-4 seconds.  Arrange in single layers in the bottoms of six 8-oz glasses, breaking the cookies if needed.  Divide 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture along the glasses, spooning it on top of the cookies and spreading evenly.  Grate about 1/3 of the remaining chocolate evenly over the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Repeat the layers twice more with the remaining cookies, pumpkin mixture and chocolate.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.  Serve cold.

Caramel Dip

At first I was going to do full on caramel apples.  I got the large pack of granny smith from Costco and several bags of the caramel squares.  So then the numbers grew and I knew that 9 large caramel apples will leave some kids wondering why they didn’t get one.  So I decided on a caramel dip.  I scoured Pinterest and put a few recipes together to come up with this one…

Ingredients

1/2 cup salted butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk, stirring to combine. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a light bubbly boil.  Remove from heat right away and add the vanilla. Stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature with apple slices and pretzels or drizzle over ice cream.

Mini-Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This was a last-minute decision.  I wanted something else.  I know right, like I needed  to add a dessert.  But I did.  I couldn’t help myself.  I’ve been wanting to make mini-cupcakes!  And I do love piping…  I searched Pinterest yet again and kind of came up with my idea of a spice cupcake.  High altitude adjustment: increase flour to 2 1/2 cups, decrease baking powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Ingredients-spice cake

2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
¾ cup buttermilk

Ingredients-Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, sifted together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
3. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. With the mixer running, add one egg at a time followed by the molasses and buttermilk and mix until just combined.
5. Whisk the dry mixture into the wet mixture and stir until no lumps remain.
6. Line a mini muffin tin with mini cupcake liners and fill each liner 2/3 way up with batter.
7. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when removed from the center.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time until fully incorporated. Scraped down the sides of the bowl and stir in the vanilla.

Pipe frosting and I sprinkled with some ground cinnamon.

Macaroni and Cheese

I made this up as I went, utilizing ingredients I had in the fridge such as buttermilk and gouda in the freezer.  This was fantastic.  Rich, but so warm and gooey.  Add cooked chicken and/or broccoli for a perfectly warm wholesome meal.

Ingredients

1 lb small elbo pasta
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 cups buttermilk
8 oz cream cheese
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated gouda cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Preparation

  1. Cook macaroni in salted water and drain.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat blend cream cheese, pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.
  3. Mix together grated cheeses in a bowl and reserve 1 cup.  Add remaining cheeses and seasonings to saucepan.  Stir until well blended.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in macaroni.
  5. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and top with the reserved cheeses.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

I hope you find time to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  Even if it’s just taking a stroll with a loved one, hand in hand…

Drunken Noodles and a Decade

10-years-birthday-cakeNow that I have a new job I am unable to write this post the way I intended. I want to scream to the world what this past decade meant to me and how the one prior was just as important, or even more so. A decade. A DECADE!!! A decade of serenity. Happiness. Work, and then more work. I never gave up. This decade was more acceptable than the one prior. More do-able. I’ll take the hard work over the wasted moments any day. I’ll sacrifice a few nights a week so that I can be this happy. This comfortable in my skin. This powerful. For today, and the past 3652.5 days I have lived a life I had never even imagined. Not for one moment, while praying to porcelain Gods, would I have thought that I could wake up and know where my car was or to remember the events of the night prior. Needless to say, I could not have done this alone. Thank you friends, family, fellowship and HP. Not for one second could I have done this alone.

Let’s talk drunken noodles. So I had these for the first time at our local Asian restaurant and fell in love. They are called drunken noodles because they are so spicy that you’ll want to drink a lot to help with the hotness. Some say beer or a sparkling wine pairs well. Ice water worked just fine for this gal right here. I decided to make these myself at home since I wanted them all too often and do not always have the funds to eat out. Here is my rendition of drunken noodles compliments of www.epicurious.com. Enjoy this Thai classic.

Happy cooking friends. Thank you for being on this amazing journey with me…

Ingredients

2 14-ounce packages 1/4-inch-wide flat rice noodles

1/4 cup vegetable oil

12 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh Thai chiles

1 1/2 pounds ground chicken

1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam)

1/4 cup black soy sauce

1/4 cup Golden Mountain sauce or light soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

4 large plum tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges

4 Anaheim chiles or Italian frying peppers, or 2 green bell peppers (about 12 ounces total), cut into strips

1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves or regular basil leaves

Preparation

  1. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and Thai chiles; sauté 30 seconds. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients and sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add noodles, tomatoes, and Anaheim chiles; toss to coat. Transfer to large platter, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Garlic, tomatoes, basil and all chile trimmings

Recycle

  • Noodle and soy sauce packaging

Reuse

  • Plastic bags that the vegetables came in.