Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken/Spinach Lasagna

On Fridays, the folks and I have friends come over to sup with us, and about every third week, the Bat lets me take over the menu. This week, we're having a nice, big batch of Lasagna. I particularly like making this, now that there are several pasta manufacturers who produce noodles you don't have to boil first, before cooking things up. Of course, were I hard-core, I'd be making my own, but then, that would mean being on my feet more than my mutilated knee allows. Ergo, the Barilla (or, whoever's on sale. I'm not really an obsessive chef in that regard).

So, tonight's dinner is now resting in the refrigerator while I rest in the comfy chair and let my cat groom my face (thank the powers that be for Diphenhydramine HCl). It will get popped into the oven at the beginning of "Jeopardy!"

Meanwhile, here am I, blogging it up.

For Denephew.

BTW-- I sometimes use cheats. Aldi stores now carry some very nice sauces, and Grandessa spinach and cheese spaghetti sauce is a quick fix if you don't feel like going the extra steps. It provides just the right amount of spinach so that it doesn't overpower the rest of the ingredients in the lasagna itself.

Chicken/Spinach Lasagna
1 1/2 lbs. roasted or grilled chicken, skin and bones removed, chopped coarsely
1/4 lb. fresh spinach (or thawed from frozen), chopped and stems removed, steamed until completely tender
1/2 lbs. fresh mushrooms, cut in half and then sliced fairly thinly
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-centimeter squares
3 cups your preferred meatless spaghetti sauce (whether you choose to make from scratch or buy a jar of something is up to you)
16 oz. tomato sauce
24 oz. ricotta cheese
2 medium eggs
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. roasted garlic, minced or crushed
1 package no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded/grated mozzarella cheese (more for the top, if you go that way)
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan or "Italian Blend" cheese
olive oil for cooking


In a saucepan, stir-fry mushrooms in olive oil, on high temperature, until the moisture mostly evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown and crisp a bit. Add in both spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce, then chicken, onions. Squeeze liquids out of spinach, stir into sauce. Allow to simmer about an hour, stirring occasionally, until most of the chicken turns to shreds. Remove from heat, add sweet pepper.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together ricotta cheese, oregano, basil, garlic and eggs.

In a 10"x 14" x 2" lasagna/roasting pan, ladle enough meat sauce to cover the bottom of the pan (about 1 cup).

Without overlapping them, lay three lasagna noodles on top, spoon and spread ricotta mixture over the noodles to just cover them (about 1/2 to 2/3 cups). Ladle some more meat sauce over that, to just cover. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella.

Top with three more noodles, repeat layers of ricotta, meat sauce, mozzarella, and once again with everything. The last row of noodles need only be topped with the remaining meat sauce and a generous layer of mozzarella, then sprinkled with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil (shiny side down), put in oven to roast 30 minutes. Remove foil. Continue to cook another 15 or 20 minutes, until the top is bubbly and brown.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Peachy Side Up Shortcut Shortcake

The Bat's favorite spice is cardamom. My personal (wink wink) theory is that she just likes the "mom" part of it, but, then again, I'm rather partial to it in some foods, as well. I especially like it with apples and peaches and the like. Therefore, when I run across a simple recipe for peaches which uses some seasonings which I know will overpower the flavor of the fruit, I call out for my 'mom.

I'd been actively searching for a Jacques Pepin concoction involving toasted slices of brioche topped with peaches and cream caramelized (heavy on cognac, of course), and I came across a simpler, comparable dessert in a spiral-bound vanity-press cookbook published by some unnamed Methodist church.

Now, my folks don't to alcohol, for one reason or another, so I don't subject them to it unless it's absolutely impossible to get around it (so far, it hasn't been). Seeing this was an older Methodist cookbook (from back when they served grape juice for communion), there was none of that stuff going into their plans, here. Still, it used a superabundance of nutmeg. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just didn't seem to allow for pleasure in dining on the peaches themselves. So, I had to pass on that, by my own personal preference.

Either way, the process is simple and the ingredient list is minimal.

Oh, the best part of each of these recipes is, they're not seasonal. They both relied on a big ol' can of cling peaches. So you can fix it any spring morning, if you so desire. You don't have to wait until your orchard is ready for picking.

Peachy Side Up Shortcut Shortcake

A little deranged-looking, but happy, no?


1 29-oz can of peaches
1 8-oz carton of heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 16.3-oz. pkg Pillsbury Honey Butter Grands biscuits

chopped pistachios, pecans or cashews (optional)


Drain syrup from can of peaches, pouring it into a skillet. On high, cook until it becomes caramel (about 8-10 minutes). There is no need to stir, but in the last minute or so, give the pan a few swirls or shakes to keep the edges from burning. Stir in the cardamom, cream, and peaches, bring back to boil stirring constantly. Into a 10-inch covered casserole, spoon peaches and arrange cut-side down.Pour cream caramel over them, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Kinda looks like underdone eggs, doesn't it? Doesn't taste that way.

Meanwhile, Preheat oven according to instructions on biscuit container. Open biscuit canister, follow directions for preparation.* Bake.

After the biscuits have cooled sufficiently to handle, place a split biscuit on plate, set peach on top of each half. Spoon caramel cream over top of each half biscuit.**

This dessert can be served on warm or cooled biscuit "shortcakes".

Serves at least 6

*If you want to go all fancy, you can mix a teaspoon of honey with a teaspoon of water, brush mixture on tops of biscuits before baking (or you can brush with a little milk and sprinkle with some sugar). Personally, we think there's already enough sweetness in this dessert before you get to that point....

**finishing options include topping with chopped pistachios, pecans or cashews, or drizzles of raspberry syrup. Again, fond though I am of nuts and syrup, I kind of like them plain.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Pizza and tossed salad

I heart radishes!

So, the Bat and I made pizza, last evening. Most of the time, she makes the dough for the crust, and I come swooping in and throw stuff on top of it at the last minute, before it gets made into a meal... we cheated, yesterday, and used store-bought crusts -- one of the recognizable brand name, and two of a relatively unknown name. Both were very good, of course, but not as good as had we followed the "secret family recipe" she adapted from her Chicago-Style Pizza cookbook (she likes the Uno's recipe). Fresh crust always wins that contest. But shortcuts are encouraged, if you have a crowd or if you have time constraints

Since we had company, we had three pizzas. Bat likes putting a ton of mushrooms, olives and cheese, and not much else, on hers. Pop likes a lot of meat, so we pile on the Italian sausage, pepperoni and onions. Me, like a non-red-sauced pizza with loads of vegetables, and, if we have any, a little roasted chicken (I prefer dark meat, but this week, the local market had bone-in, skin-on breasts on sale for $o.98 per lb, and the thigh meat was fully thirty cents more. And these were great honkin' breasts, at that. So, chicken hooters it was.

I also had to chop an onion, a couple of sweet bell peppers, and a few other items, so, as I was already doing the work, I opted to make a tossed salad to accompany the 'za. Why waste a perfectly good half-pepper, if it won't fit on the bread? Also, we'd been to Aldi the other day, & found a box of "artisan lettuces"... a couple of butter varieties and some other spiky variants of the mizuna family. It clearly meant must use. There's nothing like a big bowl of cool greens to go with a platter of garlic-laden goodies! Naturally, I dragged out a few other vegetables to go into the bowl: celery, radish, coarse-grated carrot, cauliflower (broken apart into slightly-smaller than bite-sized chunks), bell pepper, finely chopped scallions, and chunks of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes. I was only sorry I had no avocado in the house!

But then, maybe that would have been too much... it doesn't even need dressing, this way.

As it was, the pizza was filling and kept everybody happy -- my own pizza was a hit with Pop and the guests (not enough left over for breakfast, darn it!).

So, here's what I did for mine:

Pesto Pizza

one of your choice of 12-inch (or so) crust (I prefer extra thin & crispy, but since we were cheating & using store bought, & the Bat took that one for hers, mine this time was on a "regular" crust)
Extra virgin olive oil to brush crust
8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms, quick-stir-fried in butter
1/3 cup pesto sauce (your favorite. I usually decide which one to use the moment I'm beginning assembly)
2/3 cup ricotta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 sliced sweet bell pepper
1/3 cup or so sliced sweet onion
1 medium tomato, sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped chicken, cooked

Preheat oven to 425º F.

In a hot frying pan or wok, drop a tablespoon or so of butter, and, when melted (before the butter starts to smoke), stir in mushroom slices. Cook until golden but not crisped. Set aside.

Precook (or open package of) your favorite pizza crust. Brush generously with olive oil, even (especially!) the edges. Spread pesto over the surface. Crumble ricotta cheese (yes, it's soft, so you can spread it with a spatula, but it will mix in with the pesto sauce, then, so be prepared for that, if you do).

In a strainer (or with your bare hands, if you're feeling macho), press as much of the liquid as you can from the thawed spinach. Spread thinly over surface of pizza. Cover with mozzarella cheese. Arrange the rest of the toppings to satisfy your sense of esthetics.

Bake in hot oven 10 minutes, or until cheese bubbles and begins to brown.

Allow to cool only a minute or two before serving.