June 29, 2008

Sunday Night Classics- Lasagna

Sunday night dinner is a big deal in my house. While Saturday is reserved for barbecue or eating out, Sunday is perfect for taking my time to make something hearty and fulfilling, so when the marine layer rolled in this afternoon and the temperature started to dip, a sunny summer day gave way to lasagna weather.

Growing up lasagna was my grandfathers' favorite meal and my mom always made it for his birthday or other special occasions. I used to hang out in the kitchen while she made it, sopping up leftover sauce with broken noodles. The recipe I use today is very similar to my mom's and always reminds of special dinners of my childhood. And you can't beat the leftovers after a long day at work!

Classic Lasagna

1 box of lasagna noodles
1lb of ground beef or turkey
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 jar of tomato sauce
15oz container of ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
fresh chopped basil and oregano

Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water. A little olive oil will keep the noodles from sticking together. While the noodles are cooking, brown the meat in a large saucepan with the garlic and onion powder. Drain any excess fat from the meat, then add tomato sauce. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in the fresh herbs. Drain and rinse noodles and set aside.

Combine the ricotta and parmesan cheese with the egg and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large baking dish, begin with a bit of sauce, spreading it around to cover the bottom of the dish. Start the first layer of noodles, overlapping them or cutting them to fit the bottom of the dish. Spread some of the cheese mixture over the noodles, then spoon over a layer of sauce. Repeat the layering process once more, then finish with a last layer of noodles, a bit of sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for
5-10 minutes before serving.

June 23, 2008

Berry Good

This weekend brought record high temperatures here in Southern California and the last thing I wanted to do was hang out in front of a hot oven! Thankfully this weeks TWD was a Mixed Berry Cobbler- maximum enjoyment for minimum effort.
I'm already a big cobbler fan (check out my "Peaches Two Ways" post), plus how can you not love a dessert that is such a perfect vehicle for ice cream?

I used fresh blueberries, blackberries and a few strawberries from Trader Joes, substituted 2 out of 3 tablespoons of white sugar for dark brown sugar, and added a tablespoon of cinnamon.

Since I used a shallow 9inch pie pan, I had enough fruit and dough left over to make a whole cobbler as well as these to mini ones in ramekins. Aren't they cute?

June 22, 2008

Northern Exposure

I have a little crush...on Vancouver. After 10 years of living on the west coast I finally made it up to beautiful British Columbia and was fortunate to spend 4 glorious days there. The food, the mountains, the food, the ocean, Stanley Park, and did I mention the food? The culinary options are endless, each neighborhood offering the best in local cuisine, as well as the tastes influenced from around the globe.Here are some of the highlights:
1) Bishops in Kitsilano- slow food at its finest, this intimate space offers seasonal local fare. I had Qualicum Bay Scallops with morel mushroom and egg scramble, creamed potato, fava tip and baby fennel salad, morel and leek vinaigrettes- and it was divine!

2) My first oyster at The Fish House in Stanley Park, while sitting on the patio enjoying Vancouver's first warm day of the year and sipping a Bloody Caesar. I even got a lesson in how to make pepper infused vodka (I plan to test it first before blogging about it).

3) Granville Island Public Market- so many choices!

4) Delicious french cookies from a boulangerie in Yaletown- I will have to recreate these for a future post!

5) Papa Beards cream puffs. I highly recommend the eclair. We ate it before I could take a photo.

Of course there are lots of other reasons to visit Vancouver and we did enjoy some of its non-gastronomic delights. Don't miss Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge or Grouse Mountain (beware, when the say the Grind is grueling they are sooo not kidding). But you've gotta eat right? There truly aren't enough hours in the day, or an appetite big enough to take advantage of all that Vancouver has to offer.

June 13, 2008

Choux, Choux or The Sound of a Paris Train

Cream puffs and I, we go way back. Making 50 of them for my cousins bridal shower back in 2003 was wayyy outside my comfort zone when it came to baking. I was a box/mix only girl back and I was relieved/amazed at how well they turned out. This weeks challenge brought back pleasant memories for me and although I was apprehensive about creating the ring, I forged ahead.
The dough came together just as described and after a successful pilgrimage in search of a 3/4 inch tip, I was able to pipe out my ring as well as a tray full of puffs and eclairs. I removed the ring after a little under 30 minutes and it was a lovely golden brown. I love mint and chocolate together but when I caught sight of these two in my pantry I couldn't resist.

After adding the creme fraiche, I folded tablespoons of frangelico into the whipped cream which gave it a subtle hazelnut flavor.

Then I made the glaze by adding 6 tablespoons of boiling water to a 1/4 cup each of nutella and powdered sugar. Finally I studded the ring with some beautiful raspberries that were given to me, ironically, by the aforementioned cousin (thanks Brooke!)

June 9, 2008

La Palette's Strawberry Tart a.ka. My First TWD

Tuesdays With Dorie has changed my life! I started this blog as a means of pushing my boundaries in the kitchen, to become more creative in my cooking, and to meet people like me who wile away the hours at their day job dreaming up recipes and gleefully anticipating getting back in the kitchen. TWD has provided me both the outlet and the community I've been looking for and I am so excited to be typing my first post, La Palette's Strawberry Tart.

I was a little concerned with the way the crust cracked when slicing it so I wrote a comment in the P&Q. The feedback was so helpful- imagine my surprise when Dorie herself wrote in!

My strawberries came from the farmers market and were pretty sweet on their own so I only added a light dusting of sugar. I also added creme de cassis and let the berries sit for 15 minutes before serving. Served with a little whipped cream, this tart was the perfect end to a summer meal.

June 8, 2008

Blow out your flip flop

Since my trip back to the Sunshine State, I've had Florida on the brain. I'll be going about my business and suddenly the first few notes of "Margaritaville" are playing in my head. Don't get me wrong California is a great, but I can't help but pine for the soft air and laid back attitude of my home town. Luckily my new bible, Baking From My Home to Yours, had the cure- Florida Pie.

You can tell Dorie Greenspan spent time in Florida because her combination of key lime and coconut cream was the perfect antidote for my homesickness. Truth be told, I was so eager to get busy eating this pie, I used store bought crust. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time (real soon!) I will make the graham cracker crust from page 235. I was thrilled to find key limes in the grocery store.

You'll need a around 15 of them to get 1/2 cup of juice- and those little guys are tough to squeeze! Also, I accidentally bought whipping cream instead of heavy cream but after about minutes of whisking it set up quite well. One bite of this pie and

"Wastin' away again in Margaritaville, searchin' for my lost shaker of salt..."

Florida Pie
Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan
1 9inch graham cracker crust fully baked and cooled, or store bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs separated
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh key lime (or regular lime) juice
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the pie plate on a lined baking sheet.

Put the cream and 1 cup of coconut in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat stirring almost constantly. Cook and stir until cream is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Working with a stand up mixer, or hand mixer in a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale. Reduce speed to low and add condensed milk, then half the lime juice. When incorporated, and the remaining juice and mix until blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the crust, and pour over the lime filling. Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least an hour.

To finish the pie with meringue:
Preheat the broiler. Put the four egg whites and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low, whisking all the while, until whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut. Spread the meringue over the top of the pie and run under the broiler until the meringue is golden brown (or you can use a blowtorch.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

June 6, 2008

Time To Eat The Donuts

Happy Doughnut Day! According to an email from my mom, and then later confirmed by extensive research, today is in fact National Doughnut Day. What started as a fundraiser for the Chicago Salvation Army back in 1938, has since been celebrated the first friday of June each year. So consider it your civic duty, and a mark of patriotism to visit your local doughnut shop today and partake in the fried pastry of your choice! To learn more visit National Doughnut Day- Wikipedia.

In other breakfast pastry happenings, I woke up this morning to a lack of any and all bread products with which to make my fabulous prosciutto and egg sandwiches. I did however spy one lonely overripe banana so I decided to put it out of its misery and whip up some honey banana muffins.

Of course my honey had mysteriously dried up, and I was out of brown sugar (my second choice) so I had to use white sugar. They were still pretty tasty but next time I'll suss out my honey situation first and I will probably add another banana and maybe some walnuts to the mix.

Honey Banana Muffins Minus The Honey
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ginger (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup milk (any % of your choice)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 overripe banana, mashed

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl combine butter, milk, eggs and vanilla. Gently fold into dry ingredients and banana and combine well. Spoon into a greased or lined muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

June 4, 2008


Summertime is filled with good things, namely sunny days, BBQ, and amazing produce at the local farmers market. I stocked up on strawberries for my first Tuesdays With Dorie challenge (so exciting!) and bought some really great strawberry jam. That got me thinking about a cookie I've always wanted to make, jam dots.

I couldn't resist trying Dorie's "Thumbprints For Us Big Guys" but in my haste I realized I didn't have hazelnuts, walnuts or even almonds in the cupboard. Being the impatient sort that I am, I substituted pine nuts- which I should have toasted first because initially the dough was way too wet to roll into little balls. I ended up wrapping the dough in saran and refrigerating it for about 30 minutes and that helped. I also added a little lemon zest to the dough which gave these goodies a summery lift. You can find the original recipe in Baking From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan on page 164-165.
And speaking of goodies, check out my friend Shane's new website, onegoodie.com

June 3, 2008

"Boogedy Boogedy Boogedy..."

Loving baseball came easily to me. I made an exception for football because watching the post season at our favorite sports bar has the added perk of $5 bloody mary pitchers. However, when my husband come home and told me we would now be Nascar fans, I thought it was time to draw the line. I mean Nascar? Loud, boring, make fun of your in-laws Nascar? Well after spending a week watching footage for a show he was editing, he was hooked and insisted I watch the Daytona 500 with him. Two years later race day has become an institution in our house, Jimmie Johnson is "our driver," and a new cookbook, Mario Tailgates Nascar Style, has been added to my arsenal. My favorite recipe is for Jambalaya Turkey Burgers, although we renamed them Boogedy Burgers to give it that extra Nascar-y vibe (insert Darrell Waltrip's signature phrase, "Boogedy, boogedy, boogedy...lets go racin' boys!") Now don't worry yankees, eating these burgers won't turn you into a (gasp!) race fan- but they are likely to rev your engine!

Jambalaya Turkey Burgers
Mario Tailgates Nascar Style
1lb ground turkey
2 spicy turkey or chicken sausages removed from casing
2 cloves garlic minced
1 small onion finely chopped
4oz jar roasted red pepper finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp chili powder

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Form patties (makes 4), cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Prior to grilling spray lightly with bbq safe cooking spray. Grill 6-7 minutes on each side. Assemble burgers to your liking