Cooking Conundrum Friday… Lasagna

I couldn’t think of a cooking conundrum all day. I know I should have tons of how do I do this? What is that? How can I change that? But for some reason nothing was coming up. Then the ultimate cooking conundrum… what should I make for dinner? This is especially hard when you didn’t plan out your week meals and you have meat thawing but nothing that you are really craving.

I looked through my cookbooks and came up short for something to make with ground beef. Wasn’t really feeling hamburgers, didn’t want spaghetti, and I didn’t have ingredients nor the weather for chili or soup. Then, we saw a commercial for lasagna and the ideas started flowing.

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The key to cooking with a bunch of random ingredients is to take a traditional recipe and change it around, and to use what you have on hand. For instance, with ground beef you can make burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, burritos all with a few simple ingredients… ground beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs and spices. Even if you only have ground beef, you can use your spices and bread/tortillas to make all of these. Another tip is if you don’t have one ingredient, say for my lasagna I didn’t have the noodles, you could instead use any other noodles you have on hand and layer it the same way. The best tip is to look at all your ingredients and decide what is a recipe that comes closest to implementing those ingredients, and then make a change.

So now lasagna, luckily I had these ingredients on hand, I mostly just added this all together.

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Ingredients

Lasagna noodles or some other noodles

Cheese any kind

(I used mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, and parmesan cheese)

Spinach

Marinara

Tomatoes

Ground beef

salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Start water and salt to boil in a pot. (the salt will help the pasta flavor come out and will help the water boil). When it begins to boil place the pasta in for 8-10min.

2. While that is boiling start to heat up the ground beef, salt and pepper. If you want you can add whatever other spices you want… basil, oregano, cayenne for heat.

3. When those are done this is the easiest part. You want to layer the ingredients in a pan as follows:

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  • Pasta
  • Sauce
  • Veggies and meat
  • Cheese
  • Repeat, you want to end on cheese

4. Place in the oven for 15-20 or until the cheese on top is melty and browning.

Enjoy!

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Tips and tricks:

1. So for this you could use any vegetables on hand onions, peppers, asparagus, broccoli, try anything. For the cheese if you only have one kind use it, if you only have parmesan load it up! Noodles, you can really use any noodles for this cook them and then layer them the same way or mix it all together.

2. You could also try a white lasagna if you have ricotta cheese. Look for a recipe and try it.

3. Ground beef: you can try this with chicken instead, or you can skip it. Vegetarian lasagna is just as good.

4. You can serve this with a nice healthy salad and some wine!

I hope this was helpful. I know I used to be, and still am sometimes, one of those people who looks in the fridge and sees nothing. Just remember, you don’t need all of the ingredients in a recipe to make it great. Try some new things and leave out some. You never know, your version might be so much better than the original.

If you have any questions, or you want to play a game, you can post the ingredients in your fridge and I will tell you the best recipe I can think of!

Cooking Conundrum Friday

Eventually, when I finally have time, I am going to make stuffed mushrooms. I have never made any type of dish with mushrooms myself, so I got to thinking what kinds of mushrooms can I use and how will I know if they are good when I am experimenting on my own. Here is a Quick Guide Mushroom:

oystermushrooms

<– Oyster: “have a velvety texture and a mild taste that melds well with poultry, veal, and seafood dishes”

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<– Crimini: Similar to the white mushroom and can be used in most if not all recipes

 

 

shiitake-mushroom

<– Shiitake: “meaty flavor and texture…” good in “pasta dishes, soups, and other entrees.” Don’t eat the stems. funghi-secchi[1]

–>Porcini: “Strong woodsy flavor.” soups and pasta sauce.

white_mushroom_LRG

<—White: “mild woodsy flavor. All purpose”

Portobello-Mushroom

<-Portobello “deep mushroom flavor… bring heartiness to vegetarian dishes”

 

 

japanese-brown-beech-mushroom<—Beech: “crunchy texture and mild, sweet, nutty flavor… works well in stir-fries and in sauces for poultry and fish.” asparagus-morel-saute

–> Morel: “intense rich and nutty flavor and aroma… good for refined sauces and gourmet recipes”

 

 

 

enoki mushroom

<—Enoki: “delicate flavor and slight crunch…in salads and as soup toppers”

–> Chanterelle: “buttery flavor” simple recipesmushrooms-su-1010614-l

I hope that this has been helpful! I know that I just learned a ton of information. All of the sources for these pictures are hyperlinked to the picture, and the information about each mushroom came from Better Homes and Gardens: New Cook Book, Gift Edition, 12th edition.

Let me know what your favorites are and if you try any new recipes with these!

Cooking Conundrum Friday

I just ate a delicious peach. The type that the juices go running down the sides of your mouth and you just want to lay in the sun on blanket drinking some iced tea. Ahhh… delicious. While eating my sweet treat I read a post about a fresh looking strawberry spinach salad on figgy & sprout, and I got to thinking about a book I got as a present called “From Asparagus to Zucchini”. The book is all about different vegetable recipes from farmers and cooks. Last year I was determined to only cook based no what was in season, but of course like many things my goal soon disappeared and I forgot all about it.

Peaches-bydemand01-300x209Source

So here is a little Q and A about seasonal cooking. (This comes from my own knowledge and what I have learned)

Why cook seasonally?

You should cook seasonally so that you are using the best and freshest ingredients. The meals you make will taste better and you will get the best flavors. You also are letting stores know that you don’t want the artificial stuff they sell, and that you don’t want to buy African Oranges in Nebraska. Why? Because chances are they were grown artificially so that they could make it from the tree to Nebraska and still be fresh. Also, they will usually be less expensive then things that are not in season.

How do I find out what is in season?

There are tons of charts and calendars online, and some farmer’s markets will have them or you can ask local farmers. Here are some sites I found Fruits and veggies matter; Seasonality Chart; Foodland Availability; Choose My Plate Smart Shopping Tips

Where is the best place to find what is in season?

You should be able to find fruits and veggies in your grocery store, but there are many other places. You can try and find a farmer’s market around you. There are sites you can visit like Local Harvest where you can search for your area or from the USDA.

What if I can’t find a farmer’s market?

If you can’t find a farmer’s market near you, you can try using a CSA(community supported agriculture). If you apply to a CSA, a local farm will deliver to you (or you pick up) a basket of produce. The cool thing is you get whatever they have, so you may get to try tons of new produce that you have never eaten! If you want to find one simply type in CSA and your town into google and tons will pop up. I have also seen milk and meat type CSAs.

You can also start your own garden. I live in an apartment, but I am itching to start my own indoor herb garden. Again, go online search for your type of situation (i.e. home garden, apartment gardening, dorm room gardening), and you will find tons of things. I personally have found a bunch of books on Amazon that I may buy about apartment gardening.

What do I cook with all these vegetables and fruits?

As I have said multiple times before on this blog… practice…practice…practice. Try something new, boil, bake or fry your potatoes or asparagus or broccoli. Try new fruit, try fruit in desserts. The day I made the Cauliflower Gratin and Blue Cheese was the first time I had that dish and I liked it enough that I plan to make it again. Try taking bigger vegetables like tomatoes or green peppers and cooking eggs in them. Simple hollow out the inside and put in eggs, salt and pepper, other veggies, bacon or sausage, top with some cheese and bake at 350 until the eggs are set. Or you can make taco meat and do the same. Again, look for books online check around other blogs to find new techniques.  

I am glad I did this post, I inspired myself to add some more seasonal fruits and veggies to my diet, and I hope you did too! Any other questions you want to ask please email me or leave a comment!!

Enjoy!

Cooking Conundrum Friday

Definition edition

(in these segments I will give definitions of words I have come across that I don’t know, or just easily unknown or mistaken words! If you have one that you would like me to define please feel free to contact me!)

Here are some simple definitions for some cooking words that come up a bunch in shows and recipes:

Aoili: A sauce, almost like a mayonnaise, usually made with olive oil, garlic, eggs, sometimes mustard.

Bechamel: A white sauce used in Italian and French cooking cooking. It begins with a roux and is added with milk until it s made think and smooth. It can be combined with cheese  and is used in dishes like lasagna. It is also a staple base for many sauces on fish and other dishes.

Roux: A mixture of butter or oil and flour which is a thickening agent, it is used in Bechamel, gravy, stews, and sauces.

Au Jus: Translated it is “with its own natural cooking juices.” It is the pan drippings from the roasted meat cooked.

au_jus

Mesculin: “Is a mixture of young, small salad greens. Usually includes arugula, dandelion, frisee, mache, mizuna, radicchio, and sorrel.” – BHG Cookbook

Chiffonade: Thin strips of fresh herbs or lettuce.

Brine: “Heavily salted water used to pickle or cure vegetables, meats, fish, and seafood” – BHG Cookbook

Chutney: “A condiment often used in Indian cuisine that’s made of chopped fruit (mango is a classic), vegetables, and spices enlivened by hot peppers, fresh ginger or vinegar.” – BHG Cookbook

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Demi-glace: “A thick, intense meat-flavor gel that’s often used as a foundation for soups and sauces. Demi-glace is available in gourmet shops or through mail-order catalogs.” – BHG Cookbook

Emulsify: When two liquids are combined that will not dissolve together. Usually it is done by gradually adding one into the other and whisking rapidly.

Fold: To gently mix ingredients by putting a spatula down the side of the bowl and gently placing the mixture back into the bowl.

Cooking Conundrum Friday

This morning I woke up thinking about bruschetta. A couple weeks ago I took a Julia and Julia cooking class where we made a delicious bruschetta and I woke up thinking about it. But then, I started thinking about crostini and I got to wondering… “wait, what is the difference?”

Both crostini and bruschetta are typically made on bread with great toppings and a lot of times they both use olive oil, and of course saltandpepper. So, what’s the difference?

First, let’s start with Bruschetta. And, let’s start with the name. I have always pronounced bruschetta as broo—shee—tt—uh, but that is incorrect. The true pronunciation is broo—skeh—tah. Now for the food! After a bit of research, I came across the website www.thedailymeal.com/what-bruschetta This site explains that the toasty breads started off as somewhat of the original garlic breads. Bread slices were toasted with olive oil generally to celebrate the “commemoration of the olive harvest in Tuscany.” The breads were rubbed with some good garlic, and if they were in season were topped with chopped tomato.

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The dailymeal says that nowadays bruschetta has turned into a canvas for all sorts of culinary inspiration with chefs topping it with anything from cheeses to eggplant. And such is the reason for my conundrum.

Crostini is an Italian word for “little toasts” according to the website www.thewisegeek.com/what-is-crostini.htm . Each toast is a canvas for appetizers including cheese and tomato, thin steaks, salmon, or fig. So, how is this different from the current trend in bruschetta?

As far as I can tell the true bruschetta is more of an antipasto on top of a grilled bread that requires olive oil and garlic rub, whereas, the crostini is a canvas for anything and does not require the olive oil or garlic.  The garlic and oil rub will make the bruschetta softer and the crostini is more crispy like a bigger type of crouton. (which it has been used for). In my experience a crostini is smaller, a little snack bite whereas the bruschetta is a larger piece of bread sliced on the diagonal. The crostini definitely more crunchy.

And, Now we know! Thanks for reading!