Lasagna

This one takes a long time, but it’s worth it. The basic recipe makes a deep 9 x 12 pan full, modify it to make more. I like to make several smaller pans full and freeze most of them, since this is so much work. I also usually buy aluminum pans from the grocery store, because they’re deeper and then I don’t have to scrape baked-on cheese off my glass pans.

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 chopped onion
  • either 2 cloves chopped garlic, or a heaping teaspoon of jar garlic
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley leaves
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds (about 10)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp black pepper, depending on taste
  • Salt to taste
  • A bag of sliced mushrooms, if you like them
  • 1 box wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 12oz bag fresh baby spinach
  • 32 oz small curd cottage cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat)
  • 16 oz ball of mozzarella cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat) in 1/8 inch slices
  • Grated parmesan cheese

So here’s how it goes, and you have to have all the separate pieces done before you put it together:

Make the sauce. Cook the onion, garlic and hamburger in a bit of olive oil, maybe 2 tsp. Add all three kinds of tomatoes, stir. Add the spices (and those are approximations, be creative with the spices!). Cook for an hour over low heat; it should simmer but not boil. Add the mushrooms, cook another hour to two hours.

Meanwhile, boil a big pot of water with a little olive oil in it. When it’s seriously boiling, add the whole box of lasagna noodles and stir til it comes back to a boil. Stir every minute or two so they don’t stick. Stop cooking them a bit on the hard side, just before ‘al dente’, because they’re going to get cooked more in the lasagna.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it in a bowl; if it’s going ot be a while, put a cover over them to keep them moist.

When you’re ready to put the whole thing together (usually when the sauce is done, 2-3 hours along), set up a workspace. You need easy access to the sauce, the pasta, a bowl of spinach, the sliced mozzarella, the tub of cottage cheese, and the parmesan.

Just before you start putting it together, put the whole bag of spinach in a microwavable bowl and nuke it for two minutes on high.

Now you’re ready to put it all together! In your deep casserole dish(es), here’s the order:

  1. A small spoonful of sauce spread all over the bottom so the first layer of pasta doesn’t stick
  2. A layer of lasagna noodles; overlapping the edges a bit is okay, but it should just be one layer thick.
  3. A couple of spoonfuls of sauce, spread to cover the noodles
  4. Slices of mozzarella, maybe 3 slices torn in pieces scattered over a 9 x 13 inch pan; don’t worry about leaving space between, they’ll melt and there’ll be plenty of cheese.
  5. A couple of large spoonfuls of cottage cheese, spread around
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan. Maybe 1/8 cup?
  7. Another layer of noodles
  8. About half the spinach
  9. More mozzarella
  10. Repeat from step 2 until you run out of stuff. You have to kind of judge how much you have of each thing, how deep your pans are and how many pans you have. If possible, end up with the meat/3 cheeses step, so that the cheeses are on top to melt and bubble and brown.

This is the point where you can cover and freeze the lasagna, if you want. Or put it in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 for about an hour, til the edges are bubbling and the top is browned. If the top browns first, cover with aluminum foil. If the edges bubble, you can brown it with the broiler. Serve and enjoy.

Frozen lasagna- put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours to thaw, then cook as above. Cold lasagna might take an hour and a half to cook, depends on how thick it is and your oven.

You can make it vegetarian by taking out the meat, or adding tofu. You can add a layer of zucchini, slightly broiled on a cookie sheet after being brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper; don’t cook them too much or they’ll mush. Ditto slices of eggplant. You can pretty much do what you want with this- add stuff, subtract it, change up the spices, use ricotta instead of cottage cheese (I think it’s too sweet, but you might like it.) Have fun!

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Tamale Pie

Oh, we love this Chez Otter. It’s very flexible, and it makes great leftovers.

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic OR a heaping half teaspoon of jar chopped garlic
  • 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 11 oz can corn (I like the kind without added sugar) drained
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Cornbread mix, whatever you like, and the ingredients to mix it

Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil.
Add the hamburger, brown it and break it up.
Add tomatoes and sauce
Add spices and stir it up.
Add all the veggies.

Let it cook for twenty minutes or so.
While it cooks, get out a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Turn the oven to whatever temperature the cornbread package says.
Mix up the cornbread mix according to the package directions.

When the meat mixture has cooked for the twenty minutes, put it in the casserole dish. Spoon the cornbread on top, and spread it out as much as possible. Put it in the oven, leave it til the cornbread browns. If the cornbread is not brown on top, it’ll be gooey underneath, so watch it to be sure it gets brown but doesn’t burn. I usually check every minute or two for the last five minutes.

This is one of those wonderful recipes that you can change depending on what you like, or what you have in the fridge. Any kind of vegetables are good, you can add cheese to the top at the last, you can use turkey or chicken, change the spices, whatever. Have fun.

(Buffalo) Chili

This is my favorite chili recipe, although it takes about three hours. If you have access to buffalo meat, go for it, that’s the best.

  • 14 oz can chicken broth
  • 3 lbs buffalo stew meat, or flank steak, or a chuck roast, cut in bite size pieces
  • 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 7 oz can diced green chiles
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic OR 1 heaping tablespoon if it’s from a jar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 12 oz can corn (I like the kinds with no sugar added)
  • Shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1-2 limes

Mix all ingredients from chicken broth to brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer one hour. Add onions, green pepper and corn. Simmer 2-4 hours.

Add lime juice and cheese to taste, stir til cheese melts, serve.

 

 

Wonderful Slum*

For 2 people, scale it up for more.

  • 1/2 to 2/3 lb hamburger, divided and shaped into two thickish patties.
  • 2 slices of bread
  • Cheese- I like using 2-3 oz of cheap medium cheddar per person, since it’s going to be melted, and I use block cheese; shredded and high-end cheeses don’t seem to work as well.
  • 11 oz can corn, I like the kind with no added sugar.
  • 1 small bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 4 oz can sliced black olives
  • 4-6 oz sliced mushrooms (optional)

Get everything ready. Sprinkle garlic salt on the hamburger patties and grill/broil/fry them (I use a Foreman grill because I like that.)

While the patties are cooking, toast the bread in the toaster.

Put a saucepan on medium heat, drain the corn and olives, put them in with the green onions. Heat til you can smell the onions.

If you use mushrooms, sauté them with a tiny bit of olive oil in a separate pan so you can drain the juices when they are done. Add to corn and olives.

When the toast is done, put a slice on each plate. When the hamburgers are ALMOST done, cut up the cheese pretty small, add to the corn pan, and turn the heat to low medium. Stir and keep an eye on this pan, you want to melt the cheese but not let it burn.

When the cheese is melted and mixed in with the corn/onions/olives/mushrooms, put a hamburger patty on each piece of toast and spoon half the cheese mixture over each, serve immediately.

*When I was dating Mr. Otter, I went over to his house when he was sick. I’ll cook dinner, I said, and went looking in his kitchen. Typical batchelor kitchen, all he had was bread, cheese, hamburger, a can of corn, a can of olives and spring onions. I made this (we started adding mushrooms later) and served it for dinner.

What’s this called? he said.

I don’t have a name for it, I just slum it all together (riffing on Pogo).

Well, it’s wonderful, he said. And so it was named.

Spaghetti #2

This is the spaghetti my mom used to make, with some changes over the years.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 chopped cloves fresh garlic or a heaping half teaspoon chopped/crushed garlic from a jar
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomoto sauce
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 bag fresh sliced mushrooms
  • spices- these are approximate, put in what you like: 1/4 tsp fennel seeds; 1/2 tsp oregano, black pepper, salt; 1 tsp basil, parsley; 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • Pasta. I usually use linguine or fettucine; I really hate spaghetti. Any pasta will do, choose your favorite.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a big skillet, add onion and garlic and brown.
Add hamburger and brown.
If your skillet is not big enough for all the ingredients, once everything is brown transfer it to a cooking pot; make sure to scrape out all the delicious brown bits and add them.

Once you’ve got everything in the pot it’s going to cook in, open the whole tomatoes and add the juice to the pot; put in the sauce and paste, and stir.

Put the whole tomatoes from the can into a bowl and cut into 1/2 inch chunks, approximately, and add to pot.

Stir and add spices, let cook for an hour.

Add the chopped bell pepper, cook for an hour.

Add the mushrooms, taste and adjust spices. Cook it all for one more hour (more or less) and start making the pasta about half an hour before you want to serve the spaghetti.

 

Spaghetti #1

This is the quick version of spaghetti, takes about an hour on the stove (although a little more time makes it better) but in order to do that, you have to use a couple of shortcuts…

  • 2 bags Trader Joe’s Italian-flavor Frozen Beef Meatballs (no, really, they’re good for this, trust me)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Garlic (2-3 cloves fresh and chopped, a heaping half teaspoon of crushed or chopped in the jar)
  • 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • Small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup cheap chardonnay (or buy a 4 pack of godawful tiny bottles of Glen Ellen or Gallo, one of them is perfect and you don’t have to open/use a better wine.)
  • I bag sliced mushrooms
  • 1 6-8 oz can sliced black olives
  • Spices- this is totally up to you, and I make it up as I go along, so these measurements are not exact. 1/2 tsp oregano, black pepper, salt. 1 tsp basil, parsley. 1/4 tsp fennel seed (and don’t skip this one, fennel is awesome.) 2 bay leaves, broken in half and dropped in.
  • Some kind of pasta that you like. I hate spaghetti noodles, so I use penne or farfalle or linguine. Whatever.

In a big flat-bottomed pan, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
Brown onions and garlic.
Add meatballs and heat a bit.
Add tomatoes, sauce, paste and wine, stir up together.
Add spices and stir together.
Drain and add black olives, stir.
Let it cook half an hour or so, taste and adjust spices if needed.
Put water on to boil for as much of the pasta as you want to cook; I usually cook the whole pound and use it for another dish after the meatballs and sauce are gone.
When you put the water on to boil, add the mushrooms to the tomato sauce and meatballs, stir every ten minutes or so to cook the mushrooms evenly.
When the water boils, cook the pasta, drain and serve with delicious meatballs over it.

Fresh grated parmesan cheese is awesome over this.

 

Cows in Blankets

  • High quality hot dogs (my fav is Hebrew National)
  • Cheese of choice (for me, cheddar)
  • Croissants or bread sticks in a tube

Make a slit in each hot dog the long way.
Cut slices of cheese about 1/4 inch thick and 1/2 inch wide, a bit shorter than the hot dog.
Open the bread sticks or croissants, unstick them from each other, and wrap one around each hot dog in a spiral.

Put on cookie sheet and bake at recommended temperature from the bread wrapper for about the time it says; keep an eye on them, make sure they’re done and browned but not burned.

NOTE: A package of Hebrew National has seven hot dogs, the croissants or bread sticks usually have eight or ten…you can get creative with the extra bread…