Monthly Archives: December 2012

Turkey Lasagna

Well, here we are on New Year’s Eve…again.  How does one year go by so fast?  For that matter, how does a decade or two decades go by so fast?  It was 22 years ago today that I lost my mom and it’s still so unreal.  I don’t get sad on this anniversary anymore because the sadness comes on throughout the year when I least expect it and it’s enough.  Instead of mourning her on this day, I choose to celebrate her and think of the many times I would stand at the kitchen table with her and assemble lasagna.  It was one of my favorite meals to make with her because we each had our roles.  She would be standing at the counter mixing ground beef and tomato sauce in the electric skillet while I would stand nearby stirring a bowl of cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and egg.  Then we would come together and do the layering until we were left with the perfect pan of lasagna ready for baking in the oven.  I can’t not think of her each time I make lasagna and I’m glad I do.  Making this Turkey Lasagna was no different.

This particular recipe comes from my aunt who started making this a few Christmases ago.  She had found it in the newspaper and liked it so much, it became a regular meal in the rotation.  Ground turkey (or ground chicken) is browned and mixed with jarred marinara, spinach and basil.   A little bit of ricotta is added, making the meat sauce slightly creamy.  Lasagna noodles, meat sauce and parmesan cheese are layered and baked until gold and bubbly.  What I love about this lasagna in particular is not just the addition of the spinach but also that there isn’t much cheese so it keeps the calories down.  Rather than having ricotta or mozzarella cheese layered in, the little bit of ricotta and sprinkle of parmesan is just enough.  If you don’t like lasagna unless it’s dripping with cheese, you might not like this.  But if you want a flavorful, tasty lasagna that won’t make you feel too guilty, this might be for you.  And just as I did when I was a kid, I used the extra noodles to scoop up the leftover meat sauce until the pan was clean.  I just wish my mom was there to do it with me.

Turkey Lasagna (from Chicago Tribune)

  • 1 box (16 ounces) lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground lean turkey
  • 2 jars (25 ounces each) marinara sauce
  • 1 bag (8 ounces) fresh spinach, chopped, stems removed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package instructions; drain.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 30 seconds.  Add turkey; cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Add sauce; cook 1 more minute.  Add spinach, basil and pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until leaves wilt, about 2 minutes.  Add ricotta; lower heat to simmer.  Cook 1 minute; remove from stove.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; top with at least 4 to 5 noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over noodles; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat process until remaining noodles are used.  Bake for 25 minutes, cool for at least 7 minutes before serving.

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The ingredients:

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Cook noodles according to package instructions; drain.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 30 seconds.  Add turkey; cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until cooked through, about 3 minutes.

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Add sauce; cook 1 more minute.  Add spinach, basil and pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until leaves wilt, about 2 minutes.  Add ricotta; lower heat to simmer.  Cook 1 minute; remove from stove.

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Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; top with at least 4 to 5 noodles.  Spread 1 cup of sauce over noodles; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat process until remaining noodles are used.  Bake for 25 minutes.

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Cool for at least 7 minutes before serving.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Shredded parmesan cheese

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Chicago Tribune

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Of all the goodies I made for Christmas, these Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites were by far everyone’s favorite little nuggets that they couldn’t stop oooing and ahhing about.  Everyone loves a cookie…but peanut butter tucked inside of pretzels and then dipped in chocolate?  I dare you to find someone who isn’t interested in these little suckers.  Salty.  Sweet.  Crunchy.  Chewy.  They are addictive.

Peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and powdered sugar are combined to make a pseudo-cookie dough center which is rolled into balls and placed between two mini pretzels.  After a quick trip to the freezer to set, these treats are dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.  This is so easy, anyone can do it.  And because the chocolate can be melted on the stove or microwave, no oven is required.  Whether it’s the holidays to not, these goodies are sure to be hit for any get-together or party.  Oh, and if the world ends today, these are a pretty good last meal.

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The ingredients:

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In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine peanut butter and softened butter.  Add the sugars and mix to combine.

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Lay pretzels on a baking sheet (you will probably need two baking sheets).  Using a teaspoon, scoop the filling and roll into a small ball, placing one ball on each pretzel.  Top each ball with another pretzel and press together slightly to spread the filling to the edges.  Place sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.

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Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted.  Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate.  Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches.

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When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely.  Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Two Tiny Kitchens blog

Chewy Chocolate Almond Bars

A bar cookie with chocolate and toffee?  Hmm…okay!  I got this recipe for Chewy Chocolate Almond Bars when I ended up scooping up a bag of Heath English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits in my baking aisle madness, loading bag after bag of different flavored chips into my cart only to realize after I got home that I didn’t have a recipe planned for these (in addition to a bag of white chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips which still sit sad and lonely on my kitchen counter).  So I went scouring Hershey’s website looking for something that stopped me in my tracks and I found these.  Really, it was the almonds that sold me.  And the chocolate.  And the toffee.

A simple chocolate shortbread dough is the base of these bar cookies which is baked slightly and then covered with a bubbly hot mixture of milk chocolate toffee bits, light corn syrup and sliced almonds.  Back into the oven it goes where the toffee mixture gets even more ooey and gooey and when it comes out of the oven bubbling like lava, you are left saying “ahhh…look at that”.  The hard part is waiting and waiting and waiting for these cookies to cool COMPLETELY to cut them into perfect squares.  The chewy topping is the winner here and shortbread base sort of disappears under the gooey madness on top.  If you like toffee, these should be a homerun for you.

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The ingredients:

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Beat butter and sugar until thoroughly blended.  Stir together flour and cocoa; beat into butter mixture.

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Press dough evenly into a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are set.

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Meanwhile, combine toffee bits and corn syrup in medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until toffee is melted (about 15 minutes).

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Stir in 3/4 cup almonds.

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Spread toffee mixture to within 1/4-inch of edges of crust.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup almonds.

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Bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

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Cut into bars.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Hershey’s Kitchens website

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Like Red Velvet cake and want to make a super simple – and festive – cookie this weekend?  Try these Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies.

With only five ingredients, you can’t get much simpler than this.  Using boxed red velvet cake mix eliminates many ingredients and saves a ton of time.  Not to mention you don’t have to worry about the possibility of ending up with red food coloring in random spots in your kitchen, on your clothes or under your fingernails like you do when making typical red velvet recipes from scratch.  What I love specifically about these cookies is the fact that they add a festive color to your cookie jar and really do mirror the beloved flavor of red velvet.  They do use quite a bit of oil – maybe even a little too much – so they stay moist and always soft.  Any red velvet lover will appreciate you bringing these crinkle cookies to the table.

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The ingredients:

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In a large bowl, combine cake mix and flour.  Whisk until clumps disappear.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract.  Mix until smooth.

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Take about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and form into a ball.  Roll the ball in powdered sugar until fully coated.  Place cookie dough balls on prepared baking sheet.  Bake in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies begin to crack.

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Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Two Peas and Their Pod blog

Chunk Wild Cookies

It’s cookie week!  Christmas is just about a week away and we all want cookies for Christmas, right?  I can’t tell you how many people I talked to the last couple of days who spent their weekend doing the same as me – mixing, stirring, dropping, baking, cooling, cutting and eating cookie after cookie.  My entire dining room table is right now filled with plates of cookies, tins of cookies, boxes of cookies and there are even some cookies in my refrigerator.  This first cookie I’m sharing with you, Chunk Wild Cookies, I first made around Thanksgiving and loved them so much, I made a whole other batch again on Saturday.

Oatmeal and white chocolate chips are blended until ground and mixed into the batter giving every bite a white chocolate-oatmeal undertone.  The addition of peanut butter chips, semisweet chocolate chips, and walnuts make these cookies even more decadent.  If your preference is oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies or chocolate-chip cookies you’ll probably like these which are a combination of all three.  Just be warned, the dough is thick so be prepared to use some elbow grease mixing in all those chips and it makes A LOT.  I used a cookie dough scoop and it made about 4 dozen decent sized cookies.  Make them smaller and the dough will easily give you 5 dozen.  But don’t worry…these are soo good, they’ll all get eaten.

Just a warning – NONE of the cookies I post this week are healthy or lowfat…sorry!

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The ingredients:

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Beat together the butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

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Using a blender or food processor, process the oats with the white chocolate until the oats are finely ground, and the chocolate is mostly ground; a few small chunks are OK.

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Add the oats and flour to the butter mixture, then stir in the peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts.

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Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls, 2″ apart, onto the prepared baking sheets.

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Bake the cookies in a 375°F heated oven for about 12 minutes, until they’re just set.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  King Arthur Flour website

Chicken Sausage Puffs with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce

Have you ever used puff pastry? I haven’t and I’m left wondering how I can call myself a cook now. Not that puff pastry is something I made from scratch or anything. I simply pulled it out of the box and thawed it out. But why was I intimidated? It’s not like I have to puff it up by blowing into it or anything. These Chicken Sausage Puffs with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce were so, so simple. I’m now obsessed. I want to make everything with puff pastry. I may never eat regular bread again.

Frozen puff pastry is thawed until pliable and cut into squares before being cutely topped with a little button of chicken sausage. As the pastry cooks in the oven, it puffs up around the sausage and becomes light and buttery. What a perfect appetizer for the holidays or just as a tasty snack. Make this with pork sausage, turkey sausage or vegetarian sausage and I swear you won’t be disappointed.

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The ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 1 pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface; roll into 1 (8- x 12-inch) rectangle. Cut pastry into 24 (2-inch) squares.

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Place 1 sausage slice in center of each square, pressing down. Repeat with remaining pastry sheet and sausage.

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Arrange puffs on aluminum foil-lined baking sheets, and brush with egg. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.

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Meanwhile, stir together mustard and sour cream in a small bowl.

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Serve pastries warm, with dipping sauce.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • light sour cream

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Coastal Living Magazine

Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. for over a week now.  This is what happens when I get uber-busy at work and then take off for Tampa for 4 days and come home only to spend the next couple of days in bed due to the flu/cold.  Please, forgive.  I haven’t had much of an appetite but luckily I made these Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions before my trip so I can now share them with you.

Ground chicken is mixed with dijon mustard and ricotta cheese, giving the blah meet some zing and moisture.  Vidalia onions are cooked low and slow until caramelized and golden brown which adds a sweet textural topping to these burgers.  The simplicity of these burgers are appealing but feel free to add any of your favorite flavors, like soy sauce, horseradish or Sriracha, to the mixture before cooking.  The real star are the onions which, as I’ve mentioned before, were not only one of my least favorite foods as a kid but a food in general which I don’t think ever went down my throat until I was in my 30s.  I swear.  Who knew that one day I’d be eating a burger, not with ketchup or mustard or pickles, but with a pile of onions.  I would have called you a liar if you accused me.

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The ingredients:

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Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook 15 minutes or until well browned; set aside.

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In a large bowl, combine chicken, ricotta, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Form into 4 equal-size patties and flatten.

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Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (I used my Cuisinart Griddler). Cook burgers about 5 minutes per side. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes or until instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees  F.

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Place burgers on buns and top each with some of the onions.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • lettuce

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Family Circle Magazine

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