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Mar 13, 2011

DINNER GUESTS - LASAGNE

Let me start off by saying I am a good cook. Lol. I really am. I have been told this many times. I have honed my culinary chops over many years of being at home and having the time to seek out great foods, ideas and recipes. I don't follow recipes to the letter very often. I cook by method and feel and taste. 
We used to have guests over for dinner most weekends. Now that I work full time we have less time and energy to entertain as often but we try to as much as possible providing the BB Guy isn't at the cabin. No one ever declines. One of the biggest compliments is that the 16 year old son of our guests last night will never say no to a meal here. 
 The menu last night started with home made guacamole and home made salsa (canned last summer - recipe link in this post) and tortilla chips appetizer. 
 For a printable recipe CLICK HERE
 To make my guacamole I start with: 
  1. 2 large ripe avocadoes
  2. 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  3. half of a tomato with the seeds and liquid squeezed out, chopped
  4.  1 large jalapeno pepper, minced
  5. 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  6. juice from half a lime or lemon. Lime would be best. 
  7. teaspoon of cumin 
  8. pinch of salt and a big pinch of pepper. 
 Prep everything before you cut open the avocados. 
Once the rest is ready then you can cut the avocados in half. 
 Remove the pits but save one of them* and mash up the avocados. Mix in everything else. Taste and adjust seasonings. 
 It will taste great now but just see how much better it gets when you let it sit and blend the flavors for a while. Mmmm good. 
Now take that pit from the avocado and smoosh it down into the guacamole and it will keep the avocados from going dark. Yup it really works.
 A huge tossed salad. 
No recipe needed here. Just get some mixed greens. Prewashed makes it super easy and I just heard that these have less bacteria in them than if we rewash them at home where we introduce bacteria to the greens from our home. Works for me. 
 I added in orange peppers, grape tomatoes, chopped shallots, cucumber, dried cranberries and some goat cheese.
 The shallots were pretty big. I didn't put garlic in the salad, I just am showing the size comparison. 
Then comes the Lasagne a'la Lori. My BB Guy said that this was the best lasagne that he has ever tasted.
 One day I will figure out how to take proper pictures with decent colors. In the mean time I will cook up delectable food to photograph. 
I always forget to put out all the ingredients for the photos too. You will see what is added as we go along. 
 Take some lean ground beef and some hot Italian sausage and plop them into the frypan to brown. Smoosh it up really well with a wooden spoon. If you don't have one go out and buy one. Ha. Just checking if you are paying attention. Any utensil will do as long as you break the meat into small crumbles. 
I usually use the hot Italian sausage from Costco but I didn't have time so I used Johnsonville's from the grocery store. Although it tastes good there was a large amount of grease that came out of it. I was using lean beef so I know most of it was from the sausage. Drain it all off. Icky fat. We will get enough yummy fat later in the recipe. 
Once you drain the fat add in a chopped onion. Make it as fine a chop as you like. We like it in big pieces. Stir it up and then add the spices. Don't scrimp here. This is a BIG pan of lasagne and you will want to taste the seasonings or what is the point.
I add in close to a 1/4 cup of oregano and basil. About 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic. I used dried garlic that we just picked up in Gilroy on our vaction. A good shake of an Italian spice mix, a couple spoonfuls of hot pepper flakes, black pepper. No salt. Give it a stir with your newly purchased wooden spoon...still with me? 
Add in a  very large container of spaghetti sauce. Something you like with not too much salt. Home made? Even better. Save about 2 cups in the jar and add a little water to the jar. Maybe half to three quarters of a cup. Shake it up to get all the sauce out of the jar and pour it over the bottom of the pan. I spray my pan with non stick spray first. Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes.
Because we are using the Express noodles we need this extra water. You can fuss with regular noodles, boiling them in a huge pot but why bother when you can use the Express noodles that don't need to be pre-cooked. They just need a thinner sauce which thickens back up when the noodles cook and absorb some of the liquid. 
Now take a large container of cottage cheese, 1% is fine or higher fat if you want. Add in an egg, about 3/4 of a cup of parmesan cheese some pepper and a large spoonful of grated nutmeg. 
 See that spoonful of sauce on the left. Very important step. Taste your sauce and see what it may need. I had forgotten a very important ingredient. Fennel seeds. The sauce is just not the same without them. I knew right away they were missing as soon as I tasted the sauce.
Into the meat sauce they go. About two tablespoons. Now back to the filling. Add in either well drained, thawed spinach or my preference two big handfuls of fresh spinach. You could add well chopped broccoli if you like. 
 Let's build this sucker. Layer some noodles over the thinned sauce in the pan. Oven ready Express noodles require no pre-cooking.
Layer a row of noodles on the thinned sauce from the jar with none of the meat. Top noodles row with row of meat mixture. Top that layer with a layer of noodles again.
Spread over the cottage cheese mixture. Top that with more noodles, then more meat sauce. 
Finally top that layer with lots of mozzarella cheese mixed with some Parmesan. As much as you like but remember that Parmesan is salty. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. I put this pan on a baking sheet because you can get some liquid bubbling over. 
I don't make garlic bread like most people do by mixing butter and garlic then slathering the bread and baking or broiling it. 
I brush my bread with some olive oil and toast it under the broiler. When it is golden I take it out and scrub it vigorously with fresh garlic cloves. It dissolves into the the toasted bread and has such a good fresh garlic taste.
Just one problem. I am broiler/garlic bread challenged and I almost always burn it because I am busy yapping away with our guests. 
Okay we all knew I had to have an Achilles heel. So simple and yet so hard....for me.  

15 comments:

Keetha Broyles said...

Oh girl - - - the food ALL looks yummy, especially the guacamole and the lasagna.

SPECIAL KUDOS to you for spelling TOSSED SALAD correctly!!! I see it, even in restaurant menus spelled "toss salad" and I just want to grab hand fulls of lettuce and start THROWING it around the room!

:-)

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

OMG! What a beautiful looking meal. I can almost taste it! So glad you put a picture of that cheese so I know what you were talking about now. I'm definitely gonna do that salad. Ohhh but that lasagna is so tempting looking too. That will take a splurge on my carb count but, hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and sometimes a girl has just gotta splurge!

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

With meals like this I'd never say no either! I'm sure you had fun cooking and that everyone loved it:@)

Michelle Goodrum said...

Yum. The Guacamole and Lasagna both look and sound out of this world.

Regarding the pre-washed salad greens,I found your comment, "I just heard that these have less bacteria in them than if we rewash them at home where we introduce bacteria to the greens from our home" interesting. I had been wondering whether they really were "cleaner" that way or not. Like you say, "works for me."

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

Oh everything looks so yummy. I add ricotta cheese to my lasagna instead of cottage cheese but that is just a preference. Valerie

Blondie's Journal said...

Wow...what a fantastic meal. It was really interesting to see how you prepared everything as obviously there are 1000 ways to make lasagna and we are pretty muck alike. I am loving the goat cheese and cranberries in the salad {this would mean I am going to try it}. I like the red onion and cilantro in the guacamole. And the spinach in the cheese mixture is really great. Only difference with our cheese is we mix ricotta cheese with cottage and Parmesan and I like to add a little Romano. You can really do anything. And I have never added fennel...love that.

I would so love to have you to dinner. We could cook together! I hope you had a great night. Surely no one was disappointed! :-)

Xo,
Jane

jojo said...

never thought to use the fennel or the nutmeg...I will have to test that out next time. I'm so in love with the express noodles that I will never go back to all that pre- work. This looks delish Lori and I am sure it was well loved!!

jojo said...

p.s. would that be Gilroy the garlic capital of the world!??!!

Beverly @ The Buzz said...

Look yummy and I would love eating it. But I am a lazy cook and if it has more than 3 ingredients and takes longer than 15 minutes, my eyes glaze over. Thank goodness there are people like you in the world!

Heather Rojo said...

I never buy special lasagna noodles. I buy regular ones and have NEVER boiled them. Just add 10 minutes to the cooking time, maybe cover it with foil for the first half hour. It always come out fine. Even the whole wheat ones (Dreamfields) for my diabetic hubby.

Tamara Jansen said...

You are one AMAZING cook there! You are getting me inspired to make a masterpiece this evening....

koralee said...

Wow..what a wonderful meal...I am feeling inspired. xoxoxo

Sue said...

I bought 99¢ avocados today just to make guacamole for the man and myself on Wed. when I make my St. Paddy's Day meal. Why not toss in the unexpected, right? I don't use jalapenos- instead I use some of my New Mexico red chile powder to add just a touch of spice. Lots of garlic, a little salt, some diced tomatoes, and chunky avocado makes for my best guacamole recipe. I think I'd like adding the touch of cilantro, though- would make for a nice, fresh taste! I do use it in my salsa.
Your lasagne looks delish! I like to use Italian sausage, as well. LOL- I always burn the bread if I don't stand right by the broiler!

Joycee said...

What a fantastic meal! We love lasagne and as soon as we quit this diet...and we will...I'm so making this!

Ali said...

I love pasta dishes and that lasagna looks delicious. Thanks for the photologue Lori! You should do this more often. I think you're onto something with food.

Ali

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