Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lasagna Awakenings

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Lasagna. Most of my life has leaned towards the hate. I will tell you a story:

Once upon a time, there was a mom of two, who was VERY pregnant with her third baby. Her two little ones were small, and busy. She knew this baby could come any time, but her due-date was still a week away. She set out one October morning to make lasagna for dinner for her family. By late afternoon, most of the prep-work was done, and as she leaned over the oven to put the lasagna in, she felt a twinge in her back. ouch! Then another. And another. It was apparent that this baby was not going to wait the week, and she had better get moving (since her labours tend to progress quite quickly). So she packed up the kids and the lasagna and took them down the street to her sister-in-laws. A few hours later, her most beautiful and glorious baby arrived. (Ok, I added that part). It was ME! I guess somewhere in my life I must have attributed lasagna to a lot of pain, so I have not really enjoyed the experience of eating it.

I would spend most times picking out the ingredients and savoring cheese and noodles...spreading the rest across my plate, hoping my parents wouldn't notice how little I had actually eaten. I had a disdain for little bits of cooked onion. Blech!

The story continues. That little beautiful and glorious baby started to grow up. One day, as a pre-teen, she headed to a friend's house for a sleepover. That sleepover included dinner. Her friend's mom served lasagna. Individual servings. But this little girl had been told to mind her manners, so instead of telling her hostess she didn't really like lasagna, she decided to just eat it. (I had a similar experience with a plate full of peas, but it did not make a difference for my dislike of peas). Wait a minute! Lasagna is delicious! I love it!

And thus ended the terrible tragedy that is a hate for lasagna. Now, to give my mom credit, she makes awesome lasagna, and from that day forward, I finally recognized it. It is not that the friend's mom made it better...I just forced myself to actually eat it. So much more polite for other people's moms then our own. Shame on me.

But this was not the end of the love-hate relationship...because now I wanted it...but couldn't always get it. In my adult life, I have tried to make it a handful of times, thinking I had watched my mother make it enough times that surely I could replicate. Nope. Always dry...or flavorless. So we resorted to store-bought lasagnas. They're good, (especially Costco's) and much quicker...but I SO wanted to make a homemade lasagna that would bring me back to that day at 12-years-old.

Que the Sous-chef's birthday. 30. That's a big deal, but we are currently short on money, so his order was no big presents. But surely cooking him dinner was allowed. So I said to him, 'What do you want me to make you for your birthday dinner?' and gave him a list of options. He chose lasagna. Now, initially, I thought...'nice, this is the one thing we eat that really requires NO cooking on my part. What does that say?' But he was not to get away so easy. I emailed my good friend and asked her for the lasagna recipe that changed my life. She was happy to oblige and even laughed, saying, 'It's funny how much people like this lasagna, because it's just the recipe I got off the box of lasagna noodles years ago...with a few tweaks of my own.' Doesn't matter, I thought. It has to be this recipe.

So the planning and prep-work started days in advance. And then Sunday came. Birth-day. Remember, lasagna and 'birth' days have a sad history in my life, so there was a lot of pressure! I followed the recipe maticulously. Chopped onions and garlic. Cooked ground beef. Sauted sauce. Layered with love...and baked. I made two lasagnas, which ended up being WAY too much...but better too much than too little.

The final verdict? The pan was emptied. My little critics ate, sort of. The female critic picked at her plate for about an hour, and it seemed so familiar to me. Like I had done that sometime before...I will attribute it to their getting sick, right? That must be it.

And the Birthday Man? (now this is justice for you):

"It was a little onion-y"


Well, I loved it. And I attribute the 'onion-yness' to the fact that it calls for half a medium onion, but I had about a quarter of an onion leftover from the day before that I wanted to use up, so I just threw it in there too. Next time I will be more maticulous!

Thanks to the lovely moms in my life who have cultivated my now 'love-love' relationship with lasagna! I'm just sorry my own mom wasn't there to try it. She would have been proud! And I cleaned my whole plate!

Savoury Lasagna Recipe:
1 tbsp oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 lbs ground beef.

3 - 14 oz cans Hunts Tomato Sauce
3/4 of one can of water
1 can mushrooms (including liquid)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil

1/2 250g carton cottage cheese
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tsp oil
1 tsp salt

Grated mozzarella cheese
Grated Cheddar cheese
No Boil Lasagna noodles

Brown beef and add onion and garlic and cook until onion is tender. Remove excess fat. Stir in tomato sauce, mushrooms with their liquid, water, and spices. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Do not cook any longer.

Combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, oil and salt and set aside.

Spoon 1/3 of tomato sauce into 9x13 pan to cover bottom (using mostly the liquid) and save the meat for another layer. Layer with lasagna noodles. Spread another 1/3 sauce. Another layer of noodles. Add layer of cottage cheese mixture plus sauce. Cover with remaining lasagna noodles and sauce. Top with grated cheeses. Cover with tin foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow lasagna to set.


My variations:
I did not use mushrooms. Instead I added about 6oz of tomato juice to the sauce. Obviously I added too much onion, which I will remedy next time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Wow, it has been a while since I added a new recipe. I am inspired to start afresh since I found out I actually have a reader...my SIL. So tonight, we are going Mexican in her honor. She spent a semester in Mexico last year and loves truely Mexican flavors. Not sure how well I can recreate it here in the frozen north, but we will try.

Chicken Tacos:
Shredded, or diced cooked chicken (I either use leftover chicken, buy a fully roasted chicken from the grocery story, or in a pinch, we use canned chicken from Costco - because it is the only good canned chicken I have found).
Taco seasoning
Diced red peppers
shredded iceburg lettuce
Pico De Gallo
Grated Cheese
Warm Tortillas
Mexican Rice
Chips and Salsa

one ripe avocado
one clove garlic, minced
one jalapeno, seeded and diced
lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
dice white onion (about half a medium onion)
Mix in a blender until mostly smooth, but a few chunks are always nice

Pico De Gallo:
diced tomato
diced onion
diced jalapeno
Mix together in a bowl and let sit for the day. I like there to be more tomato than onion and jalapeno, but do it to your liking

The magic taco:
warm wrap
spread some guacamole on the wrap
Add chicken seasoned with taco seasoning
red peppers
pico de gallo
a dollop of sour cream or ranch dressing

Wrap it up and enjoy! Serve with chips and salsa and Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups white rice
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup diced peppers
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 green onions, chopped


In a large sauté pan, sauté the onion, garlic and rice in the canola oil until the onion is soft and the rice is opaque. Add in the salt, cayenne pepper, and the vegetable stock to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Add the vegetables. Cover the pan and allow rice to sit for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the rice with green onions and parsley.