Purposely eating the same thing all week

I don’t know about you, but post Thanksgiving, I’m perfectly happy to not cook for a couple days. Thanksgiving can take a lot of my cooking mental space. The problem with trying that this year is that we didn’t have much in the way of protein leftovers – the leg of lamb Adam roasted was excellent. Also, he estimated servings pretty well, so with much effort (i.e. attempting to cut even more meat scraps off the bone) we had two lunch portions of lamb, each. I mean, hurray, more tasty lamb, but not so much with the not having too cook – we needed a protein/main course for dinners. Have enough left over sides that I didn’t really need to cook any vegetables or stuff… So what did I do?

Cook a vegetable heavy lasagna, of course.

Totally worth it.

For you vegetarians out there, and anyone who just wants to occasionally have a meatless dish, this recipe will totally work in a vegetarian version. It should since the original was developed that way 🙂 We just really wanted some animal protein. And I really dislike mushrooms. It’s a personal failing I’m sure 😉

Cheesy Lasagna

Original from TheKitchn
Makes 8-10 servings
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 9 recipes; Dinner: 1

  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 3/4 lb ground 90/10 beef
  • 1/2 lb smoked andouille sausage, sliced into bite-sized slices
  • 1 eggplant, small – medium (12-16 oz), small dice
    • [psst, go for the smaller size, especially if your skillet or pot isn’t all that large]
  • 1 butternut squash, small – medium, small dice
    • again, go for a squash on the small size
    • your favorite type of squash will work here: feel free to substitute (butternut squash was a pleasant surprise – I had not idea if it would actually work or not walking in, we just need to use up these squashes floating around the house)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, optional (but totally awesome in)
  • 5-6 oz baby spinach
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
    • (one 24 oz jar worked, but we would have been happier with more sauce. or I failed measuring whilst executing, since 24 oz should definitely be 3 cups…)
  • 15 dry lasagna noodles (not no-boil, you want the regular ones)
  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/4 – 3 cups mozzarella, chopped or shredded
    • we used 2 1/4 cups, but would have been happy with more
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Warm some olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage; cook until the beef browns.
    IMG_0361
    Add the eggplant, squash, and bell pepper; cook until all soften, roughly 3-5 minutes.
  3. Clear some space in the middle of the pan (this is where it would have been easier if I’d used a pot with tall sides…). Add more olive oil, the garlic, salt, and spices – stir until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Now stir the garlic and spices into the vegetables. Add the spinach on top and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes later. Remove the skillet or pot from heat.
  4. Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish (you do not need to use cooking spray or butter the dish). Lay 5 of the lasagna noodles (breaking if needed) in a single layer over the sauce. Spread 1 cup of ricotta on the noodles (I totally reached in and spread out the ricotta with my hands), half of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Add another single layer of lasagna noodles using 5 pieces, the rest of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella (in that order). Top with a final layer of 5 pieces of lasagna noodles, the remaining tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup of ricotta. Reserve the remaining 1/4-1 cup of mozzarella for later.
  5. Cover the dish with a lid or tightly with foil; bake for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check that the noodles are done by inserting a knife – if the knife does not slide easily through all the layers, recover and cook for another 15 minutes. Once noodles are done, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top and return to the oven, uncovered, until the mozzarella melts, about 10-15 minutes.

 

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I so wanted this one to be worth copying…

I am aiming on cutting down my (our) meat consumption – bit tricky when Adam loves meat so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not aiming for vegetarian or vegan (personally don’t think I have the discipline for either, plus I get really tired/unhappy without animal protein [I think it’s the concentration]). Any rate! Cutting down on meat consumption – basically, I’m trying to aim for actual USDA portion recommendations (6 ozs is less [visually] than you think) and one or two meatless nights. Which you know, is still higher than historical averages. It’s a health thing, a portion control thing, and a trying to walk the environmental talk I believe.

So! I rather wanted this recipe to work out – it’s got a lot of things I love to eat (pasta, broccoli, cheese!, chickpeas) and making a big casserole is great for the leftovers and building lunches to take to work.

One, the kitchen ended up looking like a disaster zone. Now admittedly, that’s on me and my need to improve on dealing with multiple moving parts and cooking implements. But multiple moving parts! Any time that pops up, stuff better be freaking amazing to be worth the time (and stress) of making it again.

Two, there was just something missing. Not ‘eh, it’s okay, we’ve made better’ (which is enough to boot a recipe) but something was actively missing. Maybe I needed to mix in some nuts for texture. Or have actually exchanged the 1% milkfat cottage cheese we accidentally grabbed for the 4% called for in the recipe. Also, it’s just too light, even after we browned up some ground beef (using the same seasonings as the main part) and mixed that in.

So, multiple moving parts (which usually stresses me out, especially on a weeknight) producing something that neither of us found very tasty. I’m still posting the recipe to this one, since maybe one of y’all will make it amazing for your family.

Tomato-Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Originally from TheKitchn.com
Makes ~10 small servings, 6-7 large servings?
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 26; Dinners: 6 recipes left

  • 1 lb pasta, your choice of type
  • 1 lb broccoli, fresh
  • 4 medium tomatoes, divided
  • 3/4 lb onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • one 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained
  • dried basil, to taste
  • 1/2 lb full-fat mozzarella, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F; lightly grease a 9″x13″ casserole dish and set aside. Heat a large pot of salted water. Add the pasta and cook until barely al dente. Drain, then return to the pot.
  2. Steam the broccoli, drain and cut into bite-sized florets. Toss with the cooked pasta. Chop three of the tomatoes into rough pieces and toss with the pasta. Stir in the onion, garlic, chickpeas, and ~half the basil you plan to use. Tear about 2/3rds of the mozzarella into small chunks and fold this into the pasta mixture.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, and lemon juice. Stir in the Parmesan. Add this mixture to the pasta, along with the salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the pasta to the casserole dish and spread out evenly. Slice the remaining tomato into half-moon slices, then arrange on top of the pasta. Tear the remaining mozzarella into pieces and scatter between the tomato slices. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with other half of basil. Serve.

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The first ‘recipe’ I might actually memorize

And by recipe, I really mean that they’re more like … guidelines than actual rules.

This is what makes me think I can actually eventually learn to bake by ratio and weight, rather than volume measurements. Not that baking has anything to do with this dinner. It just that baking is the other place in cooking where a skeleton structure of a recipe makes sense to me.

Also a one pot + strainer recipe, who doesn’t love fewer dishes to clean? Plus, can be seasonal (and thus cheaper) by only using the ‘greens’ in season – makes me happy. Can be kosher and/or vegetarian (depending on the sausage you get). Not gluten-free though. Unless there’s a gluten-free pasta out there that tastes okay? I know not. But yeah, this one should be very versatile.

Definitely going into the binder.

Pasta with Sausage and Greens

Original from TheKitchn.com (yes, most of my recipes come through there – what can I say, it’s my cooking portal)
Serves 4-6
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 27; Dinners: 7 recipes left

  • 1 lb your favorite variety of pasta
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 lb of your favorite variety of sausage, crumbled
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced OR garlic cloves to taste 🙂
  • As many handfuls of seasonal greens as you want/fit in your pot
    • I have used mustard greens in this recipe
    • Also suggest spinach, baby spinach, arugula, kale
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and leave in the colander.
  2. Heat some olive oil in the pasta pot. Add the sausage and garlic; cook over medium heat until sausage is cooked through.
  3. Add the greens on top of the sausage and cook until they begin to wilt. Add the drained pasta and Parmesan cheese to the pot and stir until everything is combined and the cheese is gooey, about 2 minutes.
  4. Serve with extra Parmesan, to taste.

That’s it! So simple.

Pasta Interrupted

So this is what I should/wanted to have posted last Tuesday, before I got sick (all better now, thanks. just a cold/sinus thing) – y’all might recognize the roasted squash from last week. In a lot of ways, this recipe (Fettuccine with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage) is comfort food for me – lots of carbs, contrast with some nuts, and slightly sweet squash with some bite.

Man I like carbs. Might explain why I like baking bread. I get to eat the results.

Any rate, this pasta recipe is also rather flexible. As written, it’s vegetarian (not vegan through) but it’d be pretty easy to add some animal protein, especially if you’ve got a little grill – slap a chicken breast on a grill or chop it up and sauté in a pan, then mix in the cooked chicken at the end. If you’re trying this one on a weeknight or just otherwise don’t have time to fully roast the squash, there’s a short-cut version I’ll include. I think it’s not quite as good, but still very decent. The original calls for pine nuts, but those are expensive so I’ve always substituted cashews – bet you could substitute your favorite nut. And it’s not like we keep any sage other than the dried variety around the house, which still works despite the original calling for frying sliced thin whole sage leaves in butter. I mean it sounds delicious, but there are some limits around here. … I’ll get back to you when I actually figure them out.

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Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage

Serves 4
original: TheKitchn.com

  • 1 small to medium butternut squash, about 2 lb (don’t worry if all the ones at the store are too big – as long as you can fit all the chunks on a pan in one layer, you’re good)
  • 1/2 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • dried sage to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray or butter a baking sheet OR lay down enough parchment paper to cover the bottom.
  2. Peel the squash, scrape out the seeds, and cut into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Spread the butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes*, by preference stirring every 15 minutes but will work if left alone. You are cooking until the squash is tender and beginning to have caramelized brown spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the fettuccine noodles with a generous amount of salt according to package instructions. Scoop out and set aside 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta and setting aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan every so often and cook until butter turns caramel-brown, about 5 minutes. I am told there should be a nutty smell.
  5. Add the sage leaves to the browned butter and allow to fry for a few seconds, until crispy. Add the roasted squash, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan*; stir until butter coast the squash. Pour in a 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and let bubble into a thin sauce, adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust salt at this point. Add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat and mix evenly. Remove from heat, split into bowls to serve, and top with nuts and parmesan.

Short-cut version:
1) Roast for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender, but not carmelized.
2) Squish the squash a bit with the back of your stirring utensil.