Monday, January 30, 2012

Giesler Family Lasagna

I'd never made lasagna before.  It was just one of those things I didn't care to put forth the effort for.  But my neighbor brought her family's recipe to a recipe exchange party and as I read it, I asked about "oven-ready noodles".  Apparently I've been living in a cave and everyone else knew about these noodles that make it super easy to put a lasagna together.  So I gave it a try and it was SO good!  And relatively easy.    

Meat Sauce:

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
½ lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork sausage (sage flavored) (I used 1 pound ground beef and threw in a few shakes of dried sage)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp fresh parsley (or  1 tsp. dried)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp sugar

Brown meat with onions and garlic.  Add the other ingredients and simmer for 1 or more hours.

Cheese Mixture:

16 oz. Ricotta
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
2 eggs

Mix everything together and set aside.

Other ingredients needed:

1 (8 oz.) package oven-ready lasagna noodles
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.  Put a light layer of sauce in bottom of 9x13 baking dish.

Next put down one layer of uncooked noodles (depending on how many noodles are in your box, you will have enough for at least three layers of three noodles in each layer, but you might be able to do four noodles on the bottom two layers.  Count them out first and plan accordingly.  You want the layers with more noodles to be on the bottom if they're not all going to be even).  After noodles, layer one third of cheese mixture and then one third of remaining meat sauce.  Repeat the layers two more times.

Sprinkle one cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese on top.  Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour, or until edges are bubbly.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Honey Beans and Spinach

Hold on.  Before you read the list of ingredients and click away, hear me out.  This was good.  For real.  Very different, but really good.  My husband took one bite and said with a surprised tone, "This is really good!"  I took a few bites and said, "I would make this again".  He took another bite and said, "Totally".  And there you have it - an established "keeper" from the Payne kitchen.  The honey, lemon, and cream cheese make for a nice tangy sauce.  I'm not going to lie and say that the kids gobbled theirs up, but I'll give them the fact that it looks anything but appetizing.

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced finely
2 medium (or 4 tiny) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, juiced (I ended up with about 1/4 cup juice)
1/4 cup honey
1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach, washed and drained
2 tablespoons cream cheese (optional)

Drain and rinse both cans of beans, and dump them into your crockpot. Add the onion, garlic, and sweet potato. Add dry spices, and stir in honey and lemon juice-- you want the beans and veggies in the pot to be coated with them. Rinse off your spinach, and add it to the pot. You'll need to squish it all in, but I promise it'll fit. Plop a dollop of cream cheese on top. Cover, and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for about 3. Stir gently before serving over a bed of white or brown basmati rice.  Half-way through, I pulled the spinach away from the side of the crockpot so it wouldn't crust and crunch too badly, and I smeared the cream cheese around since it had melted by that point.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Greek Burgers

This is my 400th post!  Have I seriously tried that many new recipes?!  Thanks for checking out my little corner of the world wide web.  It's been a fun hobby for me and I like that there are a few others who seem to enjoy the blog too . . .

Since I was ordering lamb from our butcher for Greek Nachos, I decided to go ahead and get more for these Greek Burgers since so many of the other ingredients are also the same.  I honestly can't remember the last time I made burgers, but have already planned on when we'll be having these again!  The sauce combined with the flavors in the meat was delicious.  I also sauteed some mushrooms and onions to go on top.  Yummy!

For the sauce: (We ended up with a ton of sauce.  Way more than we needed.  So unless you plan on making double the amount of burgers, I'd halve the sauce recipe)

2 jarred roasted red peppers
1/3 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon

For the burgers:

2 pounds ground lamb (I only used about 1 1/2 pounds and still had enough for four good-sized patties)
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika (didn't use this)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 pinches ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper

Using a food processor, puree the roasted peppers, cucumber, feta, yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, chili powder, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Form into four 4-inch patties. In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook, turning once, for 8 minutes for medium.

Slather the sauce on the buns.  Garnish patties with cucumber, tomato, red onion, mushrooms, lettuce, red pepper . . . whatever sounds good to you!  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

I had a few slices of bacon that needed to be used up, so I decided to try something different with brussels sprouts instead of roasting them, which is what I usually do.  The result was flavorful and awesome - we loved it!

3-5 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-5 cups brussels sprouts
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the ends off the brussels sprouts and wash well, removing any crusty outer layers.  Drain well, then thinly slice and set aside.

In a large frying pan or wok on medium high heat, cook bacon until almost crispy.  You want it a few minutes away from being done.  At that point (don't drain the fat!), add garlic and cook for thirty seconds to a minute.  Finally, dump in brussels sprouts and cook 3-5 more minutes until they turn bright green and just begin to wilt.  If you cook them too long, they'll get soggy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

I thought this was delicious.  Granted, I love barley anyway, but I've never used it in a chili and thought the flavor mixed with the textures made for a great hearty dinner.  And if you decide to make this, but don't know what to do with the rest of your barley - try this.  We love it, too!

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup medium barley (not quick cooking)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
Garnishes: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips
In a large pot (about 6-quarts), combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne (if using). Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and add the chicken. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the chili for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender and chewy and the chicken is no longer pink. Stir occasionally, while it simmers to prevent sticking and to make sure it stays at a steady simmer. After 40 minutes, add the beans and corn. Stir to combine and simmer for five more minutes. Serve the chili with optional garnishes, if desired.
The chili will thicken considerably upon cooling. Add chicken broth or water as needed to achieve a desirable consistency (especially if reheating the leftovers).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Race Track Cake

My oldest gingersnap turned four last week!  I get excited about making fun birthday cakes for my kids.  In keeping with tradition (second birthday and third birthday), my son requested a transportation-themed cake that was pretty simple to put together and could be adapted for any age.  We found several race track cake pictures online, but this is the one he wanted . . .

I started with a 9x13 pan of cake, thanks to the help of Betty Crocker.  I made a "four" stencil using an empty cereal box and cut out the shape while it was still in the pan.  After transferring the four onto a large jelly roll pan covered with wax paper, I went at it with the icing, using small ziplocs with a tiny hole cut in the corner for the yellow and black outlines.  The icing mess was an easy clean-up by cutting away the wax paper.  The "race flag" is sharpie on white paper.  Finally, I found a highly skilled and experienced car owner to select and place four race cars on the track.

He told me it looked exactly like what he wanted, which is all I was going for.  We had fun eating it, too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Greek Nachos

Another yummy recipe from Jessie.  I'll take nachos any way I can get them, and these were a tasty twist on the originals!

pita chips (I've included how I make them below)
4 ounces feta cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (I couldn't find fresh mint for the life of me, but our sauce still tasted good)
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted and halved (optional).

To make pita chips:Preheat oven to 375.
Pull pitas apart and cut into fourths or eighths, depending on what size you want your chips to be. Lay in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with whatever seasonings sounds good. Garlic salt with a little pepper is my favorite.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until browned in color.  Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine feta, yogurt, 1/4 cup olive oil, mint and zest and juice of lemon; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth. 

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high and cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add lamb and cumin and season with salt and pepper; continue cooking until meat is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Put chips on a serving plate and top with lamb, sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Salsa Verde Chicken Bake

photo credit here
This was so easy and very tasty.  I only used seven tenders and one cup (small can) of salsa verde.  The chicken stayed moist and the cheesy sauce was yummy served with chips.

1 1/4 to 1 1/3 pounds boneless skinless chicken
2 cups tomatillo salsa verde
4 ounces grated Monteray Jack and/or Pepper Jack cheese (I used the Pepper Jack for ours and the Mont. Jack for the kids to help cut back on it being too spicy)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove tenders from the chicken breasts and cut the larger pieces in half.  You should have 4 4-ounce chicken portions plus the tenders.  line a 8x8 casserole baking dish with the chicken pieces.  Try to cover the bottom as completely as you can with chicken.

Cover the chicken pieces with the salsa verde. Cover completely, there should be no exposed chicken or it will dry out. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, use it. The chicken should be removed from the oven when the internal temperature of the breast meat reaches 150°F.

Sprinkle cheese over the chicken, increase the oven heat to 400°F and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, enough time for the cheese to melt and the sauce to get bubbly.
Remove from oven. Serve immediately. Spoon over cooked rice or quinoa. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips for crunch if you would like.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Dip

I hosted another soup swap this year.  You've got to try it!  Not only do you get new soups to freeze for later, your friends will think you're genius for planning the party (because they also get great soups to take home!) and you get to try out fun party foods that should only be made when they can be shared.  Like this one that Jessie posted.  Oh my.  This stuff is out of this world.  If I wasn't afraid of offending my guests, I would have taken a picture of how many ladies were huddled around the bowl, taking turns dipping and talking and laughing and saying how they should stop eating . . . but didn't.

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned jalapeno peppers, drained and diced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers. Pour mixture into a microwave safe serving dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Microwave on High until hot, about 3 minutes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookies

Who says we're passed pumpkin season?  Not me!  As you can tell, these aren't the prettiest cookies (all cookies I've made with pumpkin puree tend to be soft and more cake-like in texture), but they were delicious.

2-¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp salt
½ cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cups brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
1 tsp vanilla
1-½ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or not).
Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Look Back

Happy New Year!  As we step into 2012, I thought it would be fun to take a look back and see what some of my favorite recipes were from 2011.  I won't say these are necessarily my all-time faves, just my top picks from the past year.  So in no particular order, here are ten recipes that I used last year that I think you should try if you haven't already . . .


Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas and Cauliflower

Baked Berry and Banana Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry

Broccoli Cheese Cornbread

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

Mushroom Egg Salad

Cinnamon Snaps

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Pumpkin Bread

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
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