November 28, 2014

authentic italian lasagna

my husband and i recently attended an italian cooking class and learned how to make this delicious lasagna.  at the cooking class, however, we were given ingredients, but not necessarily the portions and we weren't given a recipe to take home.  based on memory from that night and some help from giada de laurentiis of the food network for the bechamel, i came up with this recipe.


2 C "00" flour (ultra fine italian flour)
4 eggs plus one egg yolk, all at room temperature

combine.  knead at least 8 minutes or until dough springs back when you poke it.  roll out ultra thin or run through a pasta press.  make enough sheets for three layers in a 9 x 13.


1- 1 1/2 C ricotta
3 T milk (or more, if needed)
3/4 lb panchetta, sliced about 1/4 in and diced
2 t minced garlic
1/2 lb ground beef, preferably 85%
3/4 C diced carrots
3/4 C diced celery
3/4 C diced onion
1 1/2 red wine (or 1 1/4 C beef broth and 1/4 red wine vinegar as non-alcoholic substitute)

put ricotta in a blender with the milk.  process until ultra smooth, adding additional milk one T at a time if needed.  set aside. 

fry the panchetta over med-high until cooked through.  scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.  add garlic to the leftover fat in the pan and brown.  add vegetables and beef and saute until beef is almost all the way cooked through.  add wine (broth, vinegar) and bring to a boil.  reduce to simmer, add panchetta, and simmer until liquid is reduced to about 3/4 C.


5 T butter
1/2 C flour
4 C milk at room temperatue
2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.


1 C tomato puree
1 C freshly finely grated parmesan

spread tomato puree at the bottom of a 9 x 13.  layer noodles on top.  spread half the meat mixture atop the noodles.  dollop half of ricotta evenly over the meat mixture. sprinkle lightly with parmesan.  repeat noodles, meat, ricotta, parmesan.  one more layer of noodles.  spread bechamel on top and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.  cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 25-30 min or until bubbly.  remove foil and bake until browned, about ten min more.

hazelnut and fig stuffing

for the adventurous eater, it's always fun to have an alternative to a classic recipe, but which is equally delicious.  plus it's much more healthy--not a lick of butter!  this recipe i adapted from  double the recipe for a large thanksgiving crowd.


5 C cubed dried bread (i used a combination sour dough, dark rye and whole wheat)
1 1/2 C hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 C tawny port (or 5/8 C cranberry juice with 1/8 C lemon juice as a non-alcoholic substitute)
1 C dried figs, chopped
1/2 C craisins
5 T olive oil, divided
1 C finely chopped onion
2-3 t minced garlic (depending on strength of the garlic)
1 t finely chopped fresh rosemary, or dried rosemary to taste
2 1/2 C chicken stock


Heat skillet over medium-high heat, and spread hazelnuts in pan. Toast 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until hazelnuts turn light golden brown. Cool.

Heat port to boiling in small saucepan. Stir in figs and cranberries. Set aside to steep.

Heat 2 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook 10 minutes, or until onions are golden, stirring frequently. Stir in rosemary, and cook 2 minutes more. Stir onion mixture into bread cubes. Fold in dried fruit and port.

Whisk together broth and remaining 3 Tbs. oil in bowl. Pour broth mixture over bread cube mixture, and mix until bread is moist, but not soggy. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Spread stuffing in prepared baking dish. Bake  @ 350 for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

pecan pie bars

these really are the best pecan pie bars around.  i got the recipe from a friend of a friend.  an incredibly easy and delicious alternative to the thanksgiving classic pecan pie.  i only baked mine for 20 min.

crust ingredients:
  • 3 c. flour
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 c. butter
  • ½ t. salt
filling ingredients:
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 ½ c. light or dark corn syrup
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • 1 ½ t. vanilla
  • 2 ½ c. chopped pecans

Grease bottom and sides of 15x10 inch baking pan. Prepare crust: in a large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat flour, sugar, butter and salt until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press firmly and evenly into pan. Bake in 350 degree for 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, prepare filling. In large bowl, stir eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and vanillla until blended; stir in pacans. Spread evenly over hot crust. Turn oven to 325 and bake 25 minutes or until set (usually takes longer, but watch closely). Cool on wire rack.

Makes 48 bars.

November 07, 2014


wintry weather has settled in.  this is the perfect belly-warming beverage for a blustery day. 


64oz apple juice or cider (i use light)
32oz cranberry juice (i use light)
1/3-1/2 C brown sugar
1 1/2 large oranges, sliced with skins on
4 extra large or 7-8 regular-sized cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
5-7 whole allspice berries


place all ingredients in a crock pot.  cook on low about 8 hours.  take spices (except cinnamon sticks) and orange slices out.  keep on warm and it will keep indefinitely until you drink it up.  enjoy!