I hope you enjoy these recipes that will make your kitchen a place everyone wants to call home. If you have any thoughts or questions about a post, please leave a comment.

November 28, 2011

Crockpot Cheesy Ravioli Lasagna

This recipe for crockpot lasagna received quite a bit of negative feedback in the responses, but I decided to be brave and try it anyway. You need A LOT of liquid, more than the original recipe calls for, in my opinion. And it cooks quite quickly....I really can't imagine what a disaster this would have been if I'd let it go for 8 hours. Also, when it's done, it's done. It's not like most crockpot recipes where you can just let it hang around in the pot until you get to it.

It's a recipe to try if you're feeling daring. There are so many variables to consider - the thickness of the sauce you choose, the quality of your noodles, how your crockpot functions. It's yummy....IF you can figure out how to best deal with those variables.

Photo of the crockpot lasagna as made by the original poster
My lasagna turned out delicious, though I definitely made some changes. (Most notably, I used raviolis instead of lasagna noodles because that's what I had on hand. The boil-in-water time was the same for both, so I decided it would work.) Here's my version:

Crockpot Cheesy Ravioli Lasagna
1 26-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce combined with 2 cups water
10 ounces dry cheese-filled ravioli
1 cup cottage cheese* combined with 1 whisked egg
8 ounces ground beef, browned
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

Put one third of the sauce in the bottom of the crockpot. Then add half the ravioli, pushing it down so that the noodles are all lightly coated with sauce. Spread half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, then add half the meat. Pour in another one third of the sauce, then layer in the rest of the ravioli, the cottage cheese mixture, and the meat. Top with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Cook on high for 30 minutes then on low for about 2  1/2 hours.

* I think most cottage cheese brands are very different in texture from ricotta and make the dish too rich tasting. The only one I have found that works is Michigan brand (and it is usually substantially cheaper than ricotta). The website for it even says that it is a very dry cottage cheese and is an excellent replacement for ricotta in recipes. Most cooks, though, seem to be willing to substitute any cottage cheese. Depends on your taste, I guess!

November 21, 2011

Autumn Lasagna and Chicken Lasagna Roll-ups

Back in October, my sister-in-law hosted a Harvest Party with a potluck dinner. I made Rachael Ray's pumpkin lasagna...and it was a hit! This decadent lasagna is layered with sausage, veggies, lasagna noodles and a pumpkin-bechamel sauce.

Click HERE to see my version of the recipe. Click HERE to see the original recipe. (The main thing I changed was to add some extra veggies, and I used regular noodles instead of the no boil kind.)

It looks and tastes much better than this picture from the Rachael Ray website, but here you go for some visual affect.

I also recently made these delicious Chicken Lasagna Roll-ups.

A filling of chicken, ricotta, feta, and Parmesan is rolled up in lasagna noodles and then covered with marina sauce. Click HERE to see the recipe.

I was skeptical about the feta because it's not a flavor I associate with Italian style food, but I love feta so I decided to try it. It really adds a great zip to the filling. I only made half the filling, intending to make half the recipe, but it seemed like a lot of filling to try to stuff into 4 noodles, so I still ended up with 8 roll-ups. I froze the extras, so we'll see if this is a freezable recipe.

It's a fairly quick and easy dish to make, and it's quite tasty. I don't eat a lot of pasta, but this is certainly  a recipe I'd make again.

November 14, 2011

Grilled Fish with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

I'm not a fan of tartar sauce, so I'm always looking for alternatives, and this roasted red pepper aioli is certainly a great choice. Click HERE for the recipe.

Instead of mixing by hand, I put all the aioli ingredients in the food processor and whirred until it was smooth, and then refrigerated it for about 24 hours so all the flavors would mingle. For the fish, I used flounder that I baked in butter with just a bit of lemon zest and black pepper. (I didn't use all the spices on the fish that the original recipe called for because I wanted the aioli flavor to stand out.)

Served with cheesy garlic toast and steamed broccoli for a quick, easy, tasty dinner.

November 13, 2011

Simple Sausage and Bean Soup

Simple Sausage and Bean Soup. Simple indeed. Dump some stuff in a pot and you have an amazing soup that is full of flavor and texture. Click HERE for the recipe.

The recipe is open to interpretation - use some kind of sausage and some kind of beans. The original poster used black beans and garbanzos; I used black beans and great northern beans. For sausage, I used a Hungarian sausage that is homemade by the butcher at the local supermarket. It's a basic stuffed sausage, like Italian sausage, and is seasoned with a lot of paprika and garlic and just a hint of anise.

When choosing your ingredients, remember that the sausage you choose is going to influence the taste of your soup as all the spices will infuse the broth.

I made mine in the crockpot, making it super simple. I browned the sausage as directed in the recipe, and then in the same skillet I sauteed the onions and garlic. I deglazed the pan with a bit of the broth, sliced the sausage, and tossed all the ingredients in the crockpot. I cooked it on high for about two hours, and on low for another four hours.

Definitely would make this again! I'd like to try it with Al Fresco Chicken Sausage that comes in a huge variety of great flavors.

November 9, 2011

Tastes Like Autumn

Two absolutely stellar recipes that capture the flavors of autumn.

Autumn Chopped Salad. Cranberries, pears, bacon, feta, nuts....it's a bowlful of deliciousness! Click HERE for the recipe.

I didn't exactly follow the recipe; I used the idea and made a small salad to take to work for lunch. So I can't testify to whether or not the amounts and such are accurate.

Also, instead of romaine lettuce, I used an artisan blend of four different kinds of lettuce - two green and two purple - that I bought at Aldi's. It's a big tub of deliciousness for only $1.99! (If you can't find this blend, it's somewhat similar to spring mix.) The blend is lighter in both taste and texture than romaine, and I think it really allowed all the other flavors to come to the forefront.

And I only used poppyseed dressing, because it was too complicated to pack two dressings in my work lunch. The dressing I buy has a good sweet-sour taste, so I think it added the right balance to the salad. Finally, I used almonds instead of pecans, because that's what I had on hand.

Kinna sounds like I didn't use the recipe at all, doesn't it? :)

Dutch Baby (aka German Apple Pancake).  Fresh apples sprinkled with cinnamon and covered with a nutmeggy egg custard bakes up into a flavorful yummy puffy thing. This is SO GOOD. Click HERE for the recipe. The only change I made was to cut the amount of sugar in half, and I thought it was plenty sweet enough. The tartness of your apples should probably determine how much sugar to use.

November 8, 2011

Potatoes. Potatoes. Potatoes. And some buffalo chicken!

Cook potatoes once. Enjoy three meals.

Baked potatoes...in the CROCK POT! This is genius, brilliant, and awesome! Click HERE for the "recipe."

So, let's take a look at three meals with this idea. On Friday morning, before heading off to work, load up the crock pot with potatoes. That evening, you have Meal #1: grill up some fish, toss a salad, and use half of those potatoes to make loaded taters with all your favorite toppings (bacon, cheese, sour cream, broccoli, salsa, whatever you fancy!).

Take the rest of the cooked potatoes, unwrap them, put them on a plate, and pop them in the fridge. Then for Saturday brunch you can make Meal #2:

Idaho Sunrise! Cut a slice off the top of the potato, scoop out some of the potato flesh, crack an egg or two into the hole, and top with cheese, meat, veggies, herbs, etc. Click HERE for the recipe. Serve with fresh fruit and you have a complete meal.

Now, you have all that potato you scooped out to hollow the potatoes. What to do with that? Meal #3!

Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls. Make mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and Gruyere, chill, then roll into balls and fry. Click HERE to see the recipe. Roast the garlic while baking the Idaho Sunrises, mix up the mashed potatoes, and put 'em in the fridge until Sunday. Then make these Potato Balls and you have an appetizer to serve while watching football, or playing cards with friends, or watching movies, or whatever lazy thing you do on Sunday afternoon.

(The Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls were ok, but nothing to rave about. It's a kinna complicated recipe for something that comes out tasting like exactly what it sounds like - fried mashed potatoes.)

With these Potato Balls, you could also serve...

Buffalo Chicken Bites. Shredded chicken, hot sauce, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese...breaded with cornflakes...and baked. Click HERE for the recipe. This requires quite a bit of work, and creates a ridiculous amount of dirty dishes, but it is SO worth it!  Yumyumyum.  (And it does freeze and reheat well, as the original poster said. Bonus!)

The only change I made to the recipe was that I used only half the amount of cheddar, and I only needed 2 eggs instead of 4 for the breading process. And one word of advice: measure out the crushed cornflakes, and add them a bit at a time to the bowl you are using for breading. When the cornflakes get too damp from the egg, they won't adhere properly. Plus, if you don't need the full amount, it won't be cross contaminated and you can save it for another use.

Potato Balls plus Chicken Bites plus a veggie/fruit tray should count as a meal, shouldn't it? :)

November 6, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Crumble (and a few other dishes)

Chicken Pot Pie Crumble. This is seriously yumtastic! Definitely adding this to the list of favorite comfort foods. This recipe has your basic pot pie filling, but instead of pie crust, you make a Parmesany pie-like crumble that's sprinkled on top.

Click HERE for the recipe.

I did make some changes to the original recipe. (You can see my version by clicking HERE.) The only veggies in the original were celery, carrots, and peas. I eliminated the celery, reduced the amount of carrots and peas, and added yellow squash, green beans, and red pepper. More colour, more flavor, more nutrition. Also, the original recipe has two steps: saute the onions, celery, and carrots and set aside, then make the cream sauce. I sauteed the onions (and some garlic) in olive oil, then, without removing those ingredients, I proceeded to made the cream sauce. Finally, I cut the crumble ingredients in half.

Parmesan-Sage Baked Porkchops. Basic breaded pork gets a kick with lemon zest and sage. Quite simple, and just bursting with flavor. Definitely would make again.

Click HERE for the recipe.

Baked Spiced Chickpeas. I've made roasted garbanzos (chickpeas) before using only Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt as the seasoning, and really liked them. Kinna reminded me of CornNuts. I thought this recipe using a cumin-based spice mix sounded interesting so I tried them. Verdict: Meh. The cumin flavor is almost too strong, and the spice mixture caused them to brown too quickly so the chickpeas weren't as crunchy as I would have liked.

Click HERE for the recipe.

Corn dog muffins. So simple - a box of corn bread mix, some hot dogs, a little cheese. The idea is good, but the recipe needs some tweaking. The first batch I made, I put too much batter in the muffin tins so they formed a crown when baked, and they didn't want to come out of the muffin tin, so when I tried to remove them, the tops separated from the bottoms. (Less batter and muffin liners would probably prevent this problem.) The other thing was that I didn't like the dough to dog ratio. Although you'd lose the corn dog look, I think it would taste better if you diced the dogs into small pieces so they were incorporated throughout the dough.

Click HERE for the recipe.