Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spinach Lasagna

Yum! This lasagna is my ideal comfort food. I found the recipe in a Fine Cooking magazine. One of my favorite things about Fine Cooking is that it is very artisanal; each issue teaches readers how to make fantastic food completely from scratch. This makes it even easier for me to play with ingredients since I have so many more chances to do so!

Greg actually helped make this with me this past weekend, it was a great date night! Because he did half the work, we did not vary from the recipe much. The main thing we did was to NOT cover the top of the dish in butter, and instead of making a tomato sauce from scratch, we used the jar of marinara we had in the fridge. Other than that, we replaced the whole milk/cream products with low fat and skim. We always do this and we've never had a problem with a sauce or filling not having the right consistency or flavor.

This recipe is so good I'm actually a little sad that it's almost getting to hot outside to make it. This is a great cool weather dinner. It also re-heats really well, and the flavors become more bold the next day.


1 1/2 lb (3C) ricotta
2 10 oz. frozen spinach
1/4C shortening, melted
1/2 C yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 C grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
dash of nutmeg

Cream Sauce:
3 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
1 3/4 C skim milk
1/4 C parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
dash of nutmeg
1/2 tsp basil

-Cook 3/4 lb. noodles as directed, set aside

-Melt butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Slowly add in the milk and bring to a simmer, while whisking. Slowing add in the cheese, continue whisking. Reduce heat and whisk often to reduce the sauce. If the consistency is too watery, increase the temp. briefly while whisking, as not to burn the sauce. Once it is to a gravy like consistency, remove from heat and stir in the basil, salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

- Thaw the spinach, pat dry if needed.

-Melt Butter in a large skillet, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and toss to coat, transfer to a bowl and cool to room temp (faster if you put it in the freezer for a bit). Once cooled, mix the spinach, ricotta, parmigiano, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

-In a greased 9x13, put a thin layer of marinara sauce. Then cover with a layer of noodles. Spread on 1/3 each of the spinach mix, marinara, cream sauce, and noodles. Repeat. Cover last layer of noodles with a dusting of parmigiano-reggiano. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.


Monday, April 21, 2008


Snickerdoodles are a Hellman family favorite, and I doubt my Dad would forgive me if I give this recipe away, sorry! Well, once again my talented husband took a great picture! I love that you can see the edges are rounded over just so, and the top has nice smooth cracks in it. The crust of the cookie is nice and firm, much like a shell. Since the shell is so distinct, it is always a surprise that the inside of the cookie is very soft and chewy!

I believe I found this recipe from an extra credit "lab" in a science class. It must have been early high school. Our teacher gave us a sheet of cookie recipes and instructed us to make each batch (if we wanted, of course) and to write down the exact ingredients, methods and procedure we used, as a way to show us how specific instructions need to be, or else they can be interpreted differently.

As a hint for other snickerdoodle recipes; cream of tartar is key! Also, don't over bake them!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

I love a nice deli sandwich with fresh veggies and greens between two slices of great bread. This, is great bread. This is first and so far only sandwich loaf I have made. I found the recipe this winter in a Culinary Institute of America cook book I checked out from our library. I actually had planned on following the recipe correctly just because I had never made bread before. However, I forgot to put in the oil; one full cup of it! And you know what, it turned out great! Since then we have only bought two loafs of bread from the store because we prefer this bread so much. In addition to leaving out the oil, I changed the proportion of wheat to white flour, adding more wheat. I also mix in raw golden flax seeds and sunflower seeds, then scatter them on top while the bread bakes.

Increasing the wheat weight and adding seeds shows another one of my cooking (or in this case, baking) beliefs: food should taste lovely and be just as healthy. I enjoy creating our food so that our bodies can use it efficiently, and our taste buds be pleased. Of course, sometimes you just have to let go (e.g Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting)!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pineapple Chicken Stir-fry

This is a newer recipe and one of my favorites! I saw a not so similar version on Better Crocker's website that was a cold turkey salad with pineapple and cauliflower. Everything was cooked using the stir fry method, then chilled and covered in a vinaigrette. Though I love cauliflower, I didn't think it had much of a place along side pineapple.

I will absolutely make this dinner again. It's tasty, pretty, easy, and healthy! Greg helped me prep the veggies and stir everything so nothing burned. Of course, he also helped eating a serving or two. Another great thing about this meal is that it re-heats wonderfully! The zucchini ends up a little overdone after you re-heat it, but the flavor is still great, especially that of the chicken. The next time I make this, I want to add some green onion to the soy sauce mixture, I think that would add a nice layer of flavor.

There isn't really a set recipe I follow for this, more of a technique. These measurements are all guesstimates.


3 Chicken breasts, sliced against the grain, each slice about 1/4 inch thick.
1-2 Zucchini, cut into slices, again about 1/4 inch thick.
1/2 Pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch -1 inch pieces
3-4 Carrots, julienne cut
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 C. Soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp dry ginger or 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 smashed garlic clove
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy!)
1 tbs brown sugar

Mix the soy sauce with ginger, garlic, pepper flakes and brown sugar, set aside.
Cut the veggies, set aside
Cut the chicken, set aside

Add about 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet or wok, set to (high) medium high. Once to temp add the veggies and pineapple and half of the soy sauce mixture. Stir frequently. Once they are cooked about half way pour them (and the sauce) back into a large bowl, cover and set aside.

Add the chicken and the remaining soy sauce. Stir frequently. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add the veggies back in and stir. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

I originally found this recipe on (yes that's right, flickr) and could not resist! The batter is very easy to make, but it is very moist. It dripped a lot when filling the muffin tins. When I tasted the batter the flavors came out in distinct layers: chocolate - banana - chocolate - banana. When baked, the cupcakes had a nice texture, a bit more firm than most, but not dense at all. I could hardly taste the chocolate, though Greg claims he could. The frosting is fantastic! Very smooth and sweet, and definitely peanut butter!

I'm not sure I would make the cupcake again. It was a bit of a tease between what could be a great chocolate cupcake or a nice piece of banana bread. If I try this one again, I might add more cocoa powder or chocolate chips to really bring the chocolate flavor out. The frosting is great and I will use the recipe again, and hopefully soon!


1 1/4 C. Flour
1/4 C. Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 C Butter, softened
1 C. Sugar
2 Large Eggs
3 Medium smashed overripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C. Ricotta cheese

Oven 350 degrees
Makes 24
-Sift flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder into a bowl, set aside.
-Beat butter until creamed, add sugar
-Beat in eggs and vanilla
-Add mashed bananas
-Add half of flour, then half of ricotta. Repeat
-Fill paper lined muffin tins, bake for 20-25 minutes.

1 C. Powdered sugar
3/4 C. Creamy peanut butter
1/4 C. Unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 tsp milk (optional).

Add all ingredients but milk. Cream until smooth. Add milk in tsp increments if needed.