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Friday, April 24, 2015

How I Make Lasagna

When Kimmie asked for the recipe to my Lasagna from two posts ago, I couldn't say no. I have recreated the afternoon of fun here in words. If anything is unclear or fuzzy, I'm available to answer questions or make meals and sell to those who need them :)

I make the meat sauce from tinned tomato sauce and paste. I use two cans of each-the sauce comes in 20 ounce size and the paste in six ounce cans. First I brown off a pound of quality ground beef and another pound of seasoned bulk pork sausage over medium heat with a big white onion and a yellow bell pepper both diced. I season the meat with black pepper, salt and garlic (fresh or powder) and oregano. Once that's cooked I add the cans of tomato and about six ounces of water and let it all simmer while I prepare the rest.

Cook a full box of Barilla or deCecco lasagna noodles for about eight minutes. Drain and douse with olive oil to keep them separated.

Grate one pound of whole milk mozzarella into a 30 ounce (liter) of whole milk ricotta cheese. Add two eggs and season with salt, white pepper and some more garlic powder. (I never measure seasonings-just do it by eye and flavor, sorry cannot be more exacting but you already know how to make stuff taste good) Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Now comes the fun (read: messy) part of the operation. Wash hands (again) and spray the baking pans ( a 9x13 inch cake pan and a loaf pan this time) with non-stick spray-bottom and sides. Set the pot of sauce, the bowl of cheese mixture and the noodles out in a row and begin by covering the bottom of the pans with sauce. Then layer the three ingredients  in  both pans until the noodles are all gone. I put noodles first then cheese blobs then sauce. Repeat using less than a cup of sauce per layer--too much sauce makes it all sloppy and unable to set up like it should.

I add in a layer of fresh mushrooms that I sauté in real butter separately from everything else at this point. Then put a thick layer of sliced and shredded mozzarella, another 8 ounces should do it. Cover with a Tent of foil (keep the foil Off the cheese) and bake for an hour at 350 F (175 C). Let stand for at least fifteen minutes and then cut into serving sized squares.

Cooking it one night before you actually need it, then into fridge for overnight then into the oven again the next day is how I did it this time. It tastes better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to meld and influence one another. In addition then the day of the event, whatever it is, is not fraught with worry and excess work. You can tell it is hot all the way thru by sticking a flat blade into the middle and feeling it. Or, like my Sweetie, use a meat thermometer !~! I'd shoot for 165 F (75 C) in the center

I like to cut individual pieces and put them into plastic containers that I get at the dollar store (5 for a buck). Then freeze them for later use. The neighborhood smells it cooking and lines up outside the door some days it seems. The box of noodles filled those two pans you see in the picture. The smaller one went home with Burp and gave them two nights dinner with no hassle for mama. Then we had a guy over last night who brought a pumpkin pie for dessert and he loved it too. 

If I were changing anything, I'd lower the tomato paste by one half; I'd use only one six ounce can instead of two. You may need to thin a bit too, do it cautiously tho, the sauce should be thick so it sets as it bakes. Not supposed to be runny like some people eat marinara sauce over pasta.

Reheating is simple. I use the microwave at half power for 3-4 mins. The big oven would take half hour for a single serving, more for larger pieces.

OK, now that you have the basic recipe more or less figured out there are wonderful variations on this theme. Most common is "no meat" and pump up the veggie count with zookini, squash, spinach leaves, eggplant, any tasty greens raw or lightly steamed, hard-boiled eggs... Many people don't want all that ricotta/mozzarella layered and so use a Bechamel (white) sauce instead. Fresh peas and small broc flowers are also delicious. Sauteed mushrooms, on top just before the last cheese layer, add a wickedly decadent taste to the bites in which they are contained.

Have fun, enjoy, share the bounty and the recipe. Hold a lasagna class one Saturday afternoon and bring in a couple of friends to make a Huge Batch and then everyone scores a few meals and an afternoon of fellowship and fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sunflowers are the Most Fun to Grow

Helianthus annus is the Latin name for the most common sunflower grown for its edible oil and meat. This species of sunflower is used a bird food, livestock forage, and in some industrial applications. Helios was the Greek god of the sun and anthos means flower. So there we have it. Sunflowers.

Starting off with seeds is my favorite way to do it. Check out that grass trying to horn its way into the bed. I took care of it shortly after I took this picture.

Ten days later, we added a low fence to keep the kids out of the bed.

Another week and Boy, Howdy, are things looking bright !~!

Growing bigger every day.

From ten years ago - a volunteer from the previous year's crop.

Lasagna for the Masses !~!

Is there any better way to express love than thru the gift of quality food, lovingly prepared by clean hands?

I think not (in some circumstances) so Monday I shopped and Tuesday I assembled and stored overnight. Come Wednesday and the day of baking. Dawned overcast and gloomy-looking, I could think of nothing better to improve the day's prospects than to bake off the larger pan I had prepared. The smaller loaf pan went home with Burp and his Mama after work Wednesday for their dinner. Reports came back positive from all three diners at his dinner table.

Oven to 325 F, preheat with the cold pan inside, bake it for another hour and a half and then let sit for fifteen more minutes while you drool and make a quick tasty salad and heat a loaf of bread.

The pan of lasagna weighs nearly three pounds and tastes so incredible... More sauce and another layer of cheese, thickly top and mozzarella, finished the prep of this bad boy. And is it worth every nickel and every hour...

I fed a few neighbors, invited another friend for dinner tonight and portioned out ten servings for the freezer.

It's a good month in LL.

Do you have a go-to meal for when you feel domestic ?~!

Thanks for taking a few minutes to spend with me, I know you're busy with all kinds of fun stuff. Hope your Spring is super.

May each step we take lead the way to Peace.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In Memoriam-Miko Wheaton Pantoja

Today our small community grieves one of its young members, Miko Wheaton Pantoja. Miko was just seventeen when he lost his life last week in an accident which left us reeling.

His mom is a friend and there are no words to describe what she feels right now. I try to say something and only tears will flow. I have learned that that is ok. Just sitting with LaTuan and holding her hand while we waited for her ride was enough to let her know that I was there for her.

She called yesterday and asked if I could come by and assist her with a few specific tasks to get ready for today's services. So grateful to be of help, I went with a joyous heart. We spent hours together sifting through items and deciding.

I cannot imagine her pain.