Monday, January 26, 2015

Lasagne alla Bolognese

I took another local cooking class in November.  (The last one was tomatoes in August.)  We learned how to make an authentic lasagna, fried calzones, chocolate salami, and pumpkin spice cappuccinos.  (I just had pumpkin-spiced sweet warm milk; I was thinking of adding white chocolate at home one time to make a pumpkin-spice white hot chocolate.)  Since the class was in the evening, my pics didn't turn out super well, so all of the pictures on this post are of the lasagna I made myself, just recently, using the same recipe that we learned in the class.
I'm lucky in that I live in Italy (understatement) and can just go to any local grocery store and buy the ingredients to make this dish (and they don't cost and arm and a leg). You can use any hard cheese you want; I used Parm-Reg, an aged Asiago, and an aged smoked ricotta.   I loved the combo.  In class we used similar cheeses; I think subbing Grana Padano for the Parm-Reg.
Italian lasagna differs from its American counterpart in that Italians don't use ricotta cheese or ground beef in lasagna.  Instead of ricotta, we made a cheese-infused bechamel (white) sauce, and ground pork, veal, and pancetta instead of ground beef.  All the meats were easy for me to find here at my butcher counter.  I didn't even know ground pancetta was a thing, but they ground it right there for me.  I've never bought veal before, but it was worth it to make this dish.  You could probably sub with more ground pork.
Lasagne alla Bolognese
adapted from Cooking with Lucas

Meat Ragu:
3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 carrot, finely, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
500g veal, ground (about 1 pound)
500g pork, ground (about 1 pound)
1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground (about 115 grams)
1/2 tube tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine or good-quality chicken broth (may need more)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Bechamel Sacue:
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating (or a mix of fave hard cheeses)

1 package fresh lasagna noodles
Optional: whole chopped almonds and sliced green olives (used in class but not at home)

1. For the ragu bolognese: In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine or broth and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat. (Should not be very "saucy".  If it dries out though, add more wine or broth.)

2.  For the besciamella: In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan (or microwave) until just about to boil. Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.  Add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and any other cheeses you want.  Taste and add more salt or cheese if necessary.

3.  For assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a lasagna pan, assemble the lasagna; beginning with a layer of the meat ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, layer on the lasagna noodles (single layer), a layer of bechamel, a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano etc. until all sauce and pasta are used up. The top layer should be pasta with bechamel over it. (I ran out of bechamel and had to make a tiny batch just to cover the top.... lol).  Top the lasagne with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling. Remove and allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. (Or 5-10..... if you're like we are... lol!)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Crumble

I made this back in November but am just getting into blogging again after the holidays, my Mother-in-Law's passing away, illnesses, and trips away.  Actually, I'm just getting to feeling like cooking again after all of that.  I haven't tried many new recipes lately, but am starting to want to again.
The adults in the house loved this, but the kids were weird about it.  I have no idea why; the chicken, veggies and gravy had a wonderful flavor, and the biscuits on top had a great texture and flavor, too! I just used a small store-bought rotisserie chicken, got the chicken off of it, then used the bones and boiled them with some veggies to make a broth (in place of the 2 chicken breasts + can of broth in the original recipe.)
Chicken Pot Pie Crumble
adapted from Cooking Classy

20 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 large)
1 (14.5 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
(OR one small rotisserie chicken; see instructions)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup peeled and diced carrots (about 2 large carrots)
3/4 cup diced celery (about 2 large stalks)
3/4 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2/3 cup frozen peas
3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried thyme or rosemary

For the crumble:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder (use 1/2 tsp for a slightly stronger garlic flavor)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup butter, cold and diced into small cubes
2 oz. finely shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup packed)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream

1.  Place chicken in a slow cooker, pour chicken broth over chicken. Cover with lid and cook on low heat about 5 - 6 hours until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from slow cooker, dice and set aside. Strain broth from slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and reserve broth (if you don't have a fine mesh strainer just try to remove the pieces of fat). If using a rotisserie chicken, remove meat from bones and chop.  Take the bones and cover with 2 cups of water.  Add some veggies, if desired, to the broth.  Simmer, covered, for an hour or longer; strain the broth, and measure out 14.5 ounces, or the amount of one can of chicken broth.  Liquid measuring cups should have ounces on the side.)

2.  To prepare crumble:  Preheat oven to 450 degree. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder and optional cayenne pepper. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Pour in heavy cream and mix just until combined. Break and drop mixture into 1 - 2-inch pieces onto a Silpat lined baking dish (or use parchment paper on a baking sheet). Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

3.  To prepare filling:  Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add diced carrots, onion and celery. Saute vegetables, stirring occasionally until lightly golden and tender, about 5 - 6 minutes. Pour vegetables into a bowl and set aside. Reduce heat to medium, melt butter in saucepan, then add in flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 20 seconds (it will be very thick). While stirring, slowly add in milk followed by reserved chicken broth, lemon juice, parsley, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil, then slightly reduce heat and allow to cook about 1 minute longer until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove sauce from heat and add sauteed vegetables, frozen peas and diced chicken to sauce, then toss to evenly coat. Pour mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and sprinkle with baked crumble topping (mine fit perfectly in my pie dish but if yours is coming close to the top edge you may want to sit it on top of a cookie sheet to prevent spills in your oven). Bake in 400 degree oven until nicely golden about 12 - 14 minutes. Serve warm.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Microwave Single-Serve Mac & Cheese

This recipe is cool because it's made with one bowl, right in the microwave.  I made this for my toddler and myself for lunch a while back.  It doesn't really seem to double or triple well, though, so I might use the stove if I want to do that next time.  It was very flavorful; I enjoyed it and so did my three-year old.
Microwave Single-Serve Mac & Cheese
adapted from the Kitchn

1/2 cup macaroni pasta (or any small pasta shape)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
squirt of good mustard
1/4 cup milk, any percent
1/4-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or any other cheese that suits your fancy)

1.  Combine the pasta, the water, and the salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 2-minute intervals until the pasta is al dente, stirring between each interval. This should take about 6-8 minutes total. If the pasta absorbs all the water before the pasta is cooked, add another 2 tablespoons of water.

2.  Stir in the mustard, milk, and the cheddar cheese. Microwave on HIGH in 30-second intervals until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce, stirring between each interval and 1-1.5 minutes total. For a creamier sauce, add an extra tablespoon or two of milk and cheese.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas In Germany

We visited my parents in Germany for Christmas and New Year's.  It was nice to get away from life's daily stress and obligations here in Italy.  It snowed in Italy, in our town, while we were gone, but we got to enjoy some snow in Germany also.  The pic above is our the first snow we saw on our trip; driving through the Austrian Alps.  There was fresh snow, but the roads were nice and clear.  We pulled over and let the kids out for a 10-minute break to play in the snow.
My parents' Christmas tree with snow outside.
A German Christmas Market.
 My kids made this with my mom (their Oma).
 Our family made and wrapped our yearly caramels.
My mom made these German Cinnamon Stars with one of my sons.
Snow at my parents' house.  The kids played for hours in this, every day it was there.

We got Curry Wurst and fries on the way back to Italy, at another Bobby and Fritz at the gas station. :)
We saw skiing on the drive home to Italy; in the Austrian Alps.  We drove by this and they were skiing right next to the road.  

We had a great trip and relaxed the whole time.  We took naps and just lazed around.  We had New Year's there too, with a ton of food and some fun games.  I wasn't homesick at all while we were gone, but it did feel good to get back to our house after two weeks.  :)

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

'Till We Meet Again

My Mother-in-Law passed away a few days ago.  She had cancer, but had been doing really well, and it still took us all by surprise.  I feel for my husband, his Dad, and his other family.  We'll miss her positive outlook, her infectious happiness, and the way she tried to make everyone feel good about themselves.  I once witnessed her meet a perfect stranger in the laundromat- a woman who was obviously having a really bad day and having a hard time physically and emotionally- and after talking to her just a few minutes, the woman was reduced to happy tears and they parted with big hugs.   She was so good with my kids, too; they loved spending time with her and looked forward to it.  She just tried to make everyone feel special and always seemed so happy, even going through cancer treatments.  Today is her funeral, and I can't be there, unfortunately.  We will all miss her, and look forward to seeing her again someday.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Massa Sovada (Portuguese Sweet Bread)

A while ago, I was missing the Azores and some of the food, so I made this homemade Massa Sovada Bread and Canja.  The kids were very excited to come home and find the dough in the kitchen.  In fact, they got into the action of punching it down.  They LOVED doing that, lol.  
You need to plan ahead for this quite a bit, as it takes all day long to rise.  Then, quite a long time to bake, since the loaves are so big. This wasn't quite like the Massa Sovada I had back in the Azores so often, but it was almost as good.  It might have been my fault; maybe I added too much flour or something.  But it was still very, very good.  (My homemade bread is never as light and fluffy as store-bought stuff.)  I've made this once before, but wanted to try another recipe this time.  

Massa Sovada (Portuguese Sweet Bread)
adapted from Azores Gal
I cut recipe in half- makes two round loaves
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
4 teaspoons yeast
2 1/2 pounds flour
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for glaze, optional

1.  In a saucepan combine the milk, salt, and lard and bring to a boil. Set aside.  In a small bowl combine the yeast, 1 cup of the flour, and 1/2 cup warm water and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, with a whisk, combine the eggs, and sugar, and mix thoroughly. Add the milk mixture, yeast mixture, and remaining flour and thoroughly combine. (I kneaded here.) Set aside to rise, kneading 6 times every half hour. The bread will take 6 hours to rise.

3.  Prepare 2 round loaf pans with butter or lard. Divide the batter among the pans (pans should be half full). Press the dough evenly in the pan and let it rise again until it reaches the top of the pan.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Brush with beaten egg and bake for about 1 hour, until golden brown. (I usually skip egg wash).

Yield: 2 loaves

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pics From Venice

We went to Venice recently (twice, actually!).  I've been wanting to go for a while, and we finally had a sunny Saturday.  It was great!  Venice is beautiful, of course.  We walked around, window shopped, and got pizza and gelato.  The first time we went, the gelato we got was pretty crappy.  I can get better gelato in my town at about 10 different shops, lol.  We did get some good stuff the second time around, though.  Anyway, here's a bunch of pictures... no more words.  :)

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