Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 11/15/10

I'm fully aware that I'm avoiding laundry and breakfast dishes to write this post. This is really not my personality, and as soon as I get off of here, you bet they are going to get done!

I had a very difficult time coming up with this week's menu. Maybe I was too full when I was menu planning? Maybe I was exhausted from this year's Holiday Specialtea? Whatever the cause, I requested help from the family and here is what we came up with....

Monday: Fragrant Indian Butter Chicken, Brown Rice, & Salad
Tuesday: Whole Wheat Spaghetti & Meatballs & Salad
Wednesday: Potato Chowder & Salad
Thursday: Pesto Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, and Buttery Green Beans with Almonds
Friday: Bacon Cheese Burgers & Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Chicken Lasagna

Yes, I made a chicken lasagna and here's warning - if you don't do "scratch" cooking then this one is not for you. :)

I've been working on clearing out some of the recesses of our freezers (yes, plural), because soon we'll be gifted with some organic, grass-fed beef from my parents. Yay! In the upstairs freezer, I found a well wrapped package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Late summer I bought a big package of chicken thighs and "processed" them myself. I'm not sure I saved too much money but I felt like I did.

So, what to do with these chicken thighs? I decided to make Italian sausage with them and then to put the sausage into a lasagna. Here's how I did it. I ground them with my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment (works great!). You could probably also pulse them in a food processor. I would not recommend a blender.

To the ground chicken (roughly 1 1/3 pounds), I added:

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp crushed red pepper (I made my own this year!) - you can use more if you like it spicier.
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp of brown sugar (I like the bit of sweetness it added along with the browner color it gave the browned chicken)

Then, I browned the chicken sausage up real well. Added some basil garlic tomato sauce (canned from this year's garden) - I'd say use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes. This was the red sauce for the lasagna. Now, I didn't have any ricotta so I decided to make a Mornay (a bechamel sauce with cheese) sauce. Here's how I did that:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
roughly 2 1/2 cups milk
2 slices provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, stir in the garlic and onion powders. Add the flour and cook for couple of minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, adjust how much milk you use according to how thick or thin you want your sauce. Stir in the cheeses - season with salt and pepper to your tastes.

Now, assemble your lasagna! I really like those no bake Barilla lasagna sheets. I used six of them (about half a package). In an 9x9 pan, put a dollop of red sauce on the bottom, then two lasagna sheets, then a third of the red sauce, 1 third of the Mornay sauce, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Repeat. Save just enough red sauce and white sauce to keep the top of the last sheets, well covered. The pile on the mozzarella and add a little grated Romano too.

Bake in a 375 degree oven, covered tightly with aluminum foil for 45 minutes. Uncover, and let cook another 10 minutes to give the top a little color. Allow to cool down for about 10 minutes, cut and serve! This is a great sized lasagna for our family and the kids all loved it!

This one is truly from scratch. My husband says I spoil him and I guess I probably do! Please give making your own bulk sausage a try - it is so easy, you probably have many of the spices already on hand and you'll avoid the addition of many additives (i.e. msg). Google what ever sausage you want to make along with the terms "spice" and "recipes" and you'll be well on you way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cheese Soup......with Vegetables

My kids love cheese soup. Of course, we are big cheese people. (Note that I said cheese and not cheesy). Yes, we are the family that mainly holds on to our Sam's Club membership for the savings we incur by purchasing our cheese there. If you are lactose intolerant or a vegan or someone who just does not like cheese, well, then, this post isn't for you.

In my pursuit to make things "more healthful" for our family, I've cut out pretty much all canned condensed soups. And, as I've searched for cheese soup recipes, most of the well reviewed ones call for one of two ingredients: condensed cheese soup or Velveeta. Now, I don't really have anything against Velveeta. It's just not for me. And it's relatively expensive and really not all that healthful for you. I'm more natural than that. Here's how I've gotten around the processed cheese aspect of a good cheese soup.

Cheese Soup with Vegetables:

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
1 Bay leaf
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 flour
3-4 cups of milk (we use 1% but whatever you have on hand)
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (you can use more if you'd like!)
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bit size pieces
Hot sauce, to taste (optional)

In a soup pot, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and lightly sauté. Add butter to the pot and stir until melted. Add thyme, bay leaf, and salt & pepper (and really any other herb that you think might be good like maybe sage) and stir. Add the flour, stirring for a minute or two to cook out some of the flour taste. Slowly add in the milk, whisking as you do so. You're basically making a white sauce with vegetables in it (I do this quite a bit when I cook to make sauces). It's up to you how much milk you want to add, you can always add more later to get the consistency your family likes. Then add the cheese and stir to melt. Your pot should be at a simmer now, don't boil or it'll get all chunky and not be smooth. Let it barely simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and simmer another five minutes. Check for seasonings, add a couple of shakes of hot sauce if desired. Remove bay leaf and fresh thyme sprig (if you used), serve and enjoy!