Saturday, July 30, 2022

TWO BELOVED OLD-FASHIONED SWEET TREATS!


STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

I believe the most important component of the classic Strawberry Shortcake are the biscuits. I prefer a buttery, flaky biscuit; definitely not spongey or cake-like. Fresh, vine-ripened strawberries also make a huge difference. The strawberries this time of year in Ireland are plentiful, plump, ripe and juicy. Freshly whipped cream tops the Shortcake. So simple and delicious. I made the shortcake biscuits a few weeks ago and froze them so putting the Strawberry Shortcake together last night was very easy. 

BUTTERMILK BISCUIT INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp. baking power

1 tsp. baking soda

1/3 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into small pieces*

1 cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp. heavy cream,

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

8 cups fresh strawberries, sliced and mixed with about 1/4 cup white sugar**

Generous amount whipped cream for topping

*I almost always use salted butter, but many bakers prefer unsalted as you have better control over the salt level. I like salt even in sweet treats!

**Mix well the berries with the sugar and let set at least 1/2 hours. Once macerated the berries give off a lovely juice.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees C).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Whisk together flour, baking power, baking soda, 1/3 cup white sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Cut in cold butter with a knife, pastry blender, food processor by gently pulsing or you can even use your fingers to incorporate the butter until it is the size of peas.

Stir in the buttermilk until the flour mixture is just moistened. Do not over-mix. This will cause your biscuits to get tough.

On a floured surface drop the flour/butter mixture and using your hands press the dough together to form a round shape about 1 inch thick. The mixture will be crumbly, but there is so much butter in these biscuits that it comes together as it bakes. 

Using a biscuit cutter, glass or in my case, I used a 1 cup measuring cup, which made rather large biscuits, cut the biscuits into rounds. Place on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. They will spread.
Brush the top of the biscuits with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. 

Bake until golden brown; about 15-20 minutes.

Cool on a rack.
Because my biscuits were so large I only got 9 out of it. You could make them smaller and serve 2 biscuits per serving.


ANOTHER OLD-TIME FAVORITE...

APPLE CRISP

This dessert comes together very easily and will fill your house with warm, comforting aromas reminiscent of eating at your Nanna's on a Sunday afternoon, which we did every week growing up.  Even though it's only the end of July, autumn comes early in Ireland. By mid/late-August days become shorter and leaves start to curl and brown. This dessert reminds me of the fall.

You can make this with a variety of apples. Last time I used 3 green Granny Smiths and 3 Galas. This morning I used 6 Pink Ladies. Both were delicious!


Ingredients:
6 apples, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (that's 1 stick) cold butter (again, I prefer salted butter) diced
Pinch of Kosher salt

Preparation:
Preheat over to 350 degrees F (180 C). Generously butter an 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, add chopped apples, granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir to combine and then transfer to the buttered baking dish.
In a separate bowl combine the topping ingredients: Brown sugar, oats, flour, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, salt, and diced cold butter. Use a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or your fingers to incorporate the butter thoroughly until the butter is the size of peas. 
Spread the topping over the apples and gently pat to even it out. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and bubby. Serve either warm or room temperature. Excellent with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or rich, homemade vanilla ice cream. We had ours this time with the whipped cream. 
My husband, Jerry, LOVES his sweets!

I HOPE YOU ENJOY PLAYING IN YOUR 
KITCHEN AS MUCH AS I DO!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

KEEP ON LOVING...KEEP ON COOKING!

WWW.COOKWITHCINDY.COM










Saturday, July 23, 2022

UDON NOODLES!

So what are Udon Noodles? They are a thick, chewy, delicious Japanese staple. Traditionally served in soup, but also can be stir-fried, served with dipping sauce or even eaten cold. I have never made Udon Noodles so thought it was time I tried. I did a bit of research and found a recipe online that sounded intriguing. Mainly because of the technique used to knead the noodle dough.

But first, let's start with the recipe...the recipe I found on the Chopstick Chronicles site seemed like it was translated from Japanese so I had to do some guessing, but with only 3 ingredients how could you go too far wrong? 

Ingredients:
15 g. salt (3 1/2 tsp.)
140 ml. water (2 1/2 cups)
300 g. all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)
Generous amount of corn or potato starch for rolling out the noodles

Preparation:
In a jar or bowl dissolve the salt in the water. Place the flour in a large bowl and add the salt water gradually to combine with the flour by using either your finger or a chopstick. I used my fingers. If the dough is not coming together, add more water 1 Tbsp. at a time. 

At this stage, do not knead, just stir to combine the flour and water to make a nice, soft dough. After all the water has been added, knead the dough together into a round shaped ball. Here's where the fun begins. Place the dough into a large ziplock bag and seal the bag. Knead by stepping on the dough 50 times.

Repeat the process 3 times (for 150 steps). After 3 times, take the dough out and gently fold it over several times. Return to the bag and step 50 more times for a total steps of 200. This really is fun and would be a treat to do with kids. Take the dough out and shape it into a neat round ball. Leave the dough, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours at room temperature. I left mine for 3 hours.

After 3 hours of resting, dust a surface with corn (or potato) starch and roll the dough out from the center to the outer edges. The dough should be 3 mm (about 1/8 inch) thick. Then cut the dough with a sharp knife into strips about 1/8 inch wide. The dough is quite elastic so can be stretched and rolled on the counter or board to make a nice round noodle. I got a little excited and didn't get the noodles quite as evenly shaped as I'd wished, but they sure were delicious!

Bring a large pot of salted, boiling water to boil. The large quantity of water is necessary as it helps prevent the noodles from sticking together. Drop the noodles in and cook for 10 - 12 minutes. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse the cooked noodles under running water. The rinsing helps the noodles from sticking as they are quite sticky.
You could then make the traditional soup, called Kakejiru which is made from the Japanese version of mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) or in Japan: dashi, soy sauce and mirin. 

I stir-fried pork strips with mushrooms, garlic, yellow bell peppers, broccoli, lots of fresh basil. In a separate saute pan make a roux with sesame oil and flour. This made just the right base for the sauce. Add the soy and teriyaki, lime, and pepper flake to achieve the right consistency. Mix the pork and veg together with the sauce and then gently fold in the Udon Noodle. 
Adding lots of fresh basil. 
Udon Noodles are the quintessential Japanese comfort food. They were very easy to make and I will be making them again with chicken, beef, lots of fresh ginger root, possibly even cabbage. Endless possibilities!

Just for the record, I do not believe Chef Morimoto kneads his Udon Noodles with his foot, but will have to look into that further. 

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

SAYONARA!
We've had a nest of herons with us
since early spring. So entertaining and
such a prehistoric looking creature!

www.cookwithcindy.com








Wednesday, July 20, 2022

ONE POTATO...TWO POTATO!

Soup, that is! I love making soup and the beauty of these two soups is they are delicious either hot or cold. First I'm going to share a recipe from my friend Brenna Reilly's family. Growing up Brenna said this was the 'go-to' soup her Mom would make to help feel better, cheer her up, or just set things right with the world. It is very comforting.

SWEET POTATO GREEN PEA SOUP 

WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Ingredients:
2 large sweet potatoes, about 4 cups, cubed, washed, but not peeled
2 onions, sliced
1 small garlic clove, smashed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
Salt/Pepper
2 cups frozen peas

Preparation:
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil until nearly smoking. Add the sliced onions, salt and give them a good stir. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer and slowly cook down the onions; about 20 minutes. Once the onions have caramelized and are slightly brown add all other ingredients, except the frozen peas. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cook gently on simmer for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the potatoes nearly fall apart. The amount of salt and pepper will depend on how salty your stock is so taste and season accordingly. Cool completely in the soup pot and then blend until very smooth. Add a little more chicken stock if it is too thick. You want the soup to have substance, but not be the consistency of baby food. I did not serve this soup immediately so added the peas, still frozen to the soup base. They cook when you reheat. Brenna's Mom serves the soup with a dollop of garlic mayo. I did the same and don't know why I have no photos. Usually I am photo crazy when I cook. The soup is amazingly smooth and satisfying. 

NEXT UP...ANOTHER...

POTATO SOUP
This potato soup is much lighter than traditional French Vichyssoise, but has a very similar flavor. It is also good served either hot or cold. I think it would be fun to make with purple potatoes.

Ingredients:
2 cups Golden Potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups rich chicken stock*
1/2 small onion, chopped; about 1/4 cup
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/3 cup light cream
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt/Pepper
Chives, optional garnish

* I had recently roasted a chicken using some beautiful duck fat so the stock I made from those bones had a very deep, rich flavor. You could also add 1 Tbsp. of duck fat in place of the butter or just butter alone will work, too.

Preparation:
Add all ingredients to a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender. Cool completely and then blend until very smooth. 

Soup is so easy to make and nice to have on hand for a quick lunch, starter course, or if the unexpected company arrives!

THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY. 
Julie and Lily say HI!

HOPEFULLY THESE SHOTS FROM IRELAND 
MAKE UP FOR THE LACK OF POTATO SOUP PHOTOS!
Galway is playing Derry this Sunday in the
All-Ireland football finals. We are flying the colors!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...
And here is my humble herb garden
just outside my kitchen door.


www.cookwithcindy.com











Thursday, June 30, 2022

SOURDOUGH BREAD!

I've made a lot of bread over the years, but have never made Sourdough. My friend, Brenna Reilly recently gifted me with some ancient Sourdough Starter dating back to her Mom. I had to "feed" the starter for 4 days 1/2 cup strong (or bread) flour and 1/4 cup water and then let it rest a day. I was very excited to embark on the Sourdough project!

Here's the bread right out of the oven. I found the recipe online from Odlums Flour, which is a very popular brand here in Ireland. I converted measurements from grams to cups so forgive me if I'm a little off, but bread, unlike most baking, is not an exact science. Depending on your altitude and other weather conditions more flour or a little more or less water may be needed. I used my stand mixer to pull the dough together and it seemed quite thick so added a few more drops of water while kneading. You don't need to use a stand mixer, but it sure did make it easier.

Ingredients:
800 grams strong (bread) flour (6 1/2 cups)
10 grams salt (1 fat Tbsp.)
460 ml. water (2 cups)
320 grams sourdough starter (1 1/3 cups)

Preparation:
Add all the ingredients to a large bowl. If using your stand mixer, using the dough hook, start by mixing slowly so the flour doesn't fly everywhere. Increase to medium speed and mix for 5-8 minutes. Using the machine also greatly reduces the need for a lot of kneading as the machine very effectively starts releasing gluten, which is the purpose of kneading so the bread rises. If doing this by hand mix with a fork until all ingredients are completely incorporated. 
Spill the dough out on a floured surface and knead for about 6-8 minutes if you've used the mixer and 10-12 minutes if doing by hand. 
Once kneaded place the dough in a bowl and let proof covered in a dry warm place for 4 hours.
There's something very satisfying about bread dough rising. It's almost magical and because this bread uses no yeast even more so. The leavening happens through the fermented sourdough causing the bread to rise. 

4 hours later, using your fist punch down the dough and knock the bread out of the bowl. Knead for 3-5 minutes. Shape the dough. I decided to make one giant loaf using the proofing basket that I use for making artisan bread. 
I bought this boule proofing basket from a very cool
Vietnamese company, MADE TERRA.
Check them out. They do business differently. 

The big round loaf is a boule, in France simply means ball. Flour the basket generously and shape the dough into a nice round ball and drop it into the basket. Press lightly so the bread will absorb the lines of the basket. You could also just free-form the dough or form it into two traditionally shaped loaves. 
Once your dough is shaped, cover with a dampened tea towel and let rest another 3 hours. 7 hours seemed like a lot of resting time, but the dough was dense so I figured it needed time to expand. Before you put it in the oven, slice the dough using a very sharp knife (or preferably a razor blade). This allows the moisture to escape as it bakes. I used a razor to make some leaf shapes on mine. 
Preheat oven to 230C or 445 Fahrenheit. You don't need a pizza stone to cook the bread, but that is what I used. Heat the stone accordingly and place a tray in the bottom of the oven as you will pour about a cup of boiling water into the tray as you put the bread in to bake. The steam helps form a beautiful crust on the bread. 
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until crust is nicely browned and has a hollow sound when tapped. 
Here is what my crumb (interior) looked like. Very happy with my first excursion into the world of Sourdough. I'm already feeding my next batch of Starter!
And here's the really fun part...In addition to excellent toast every morning for breakfast, I made many different things from this one, big loaf of Sourdough.

MONTE CRISTO

Soak the bread in beaten egg.  Fill sandwiches with ham, cheese and often either turkey or chicken. I had only ham and cheese so made these Monte Cristo's with ham and Emanthal swiss cheese. 

MY FAVORITE...PANZANELLA--TUSCAN BREAD SALAD
Traditionally this Italian Bread Salad contains: bread, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, salt and lots of fresh basil, but as with so many different "traditional" recipes there are huge variations. This is what I used:

Ingredients:
3 thick slices Sourdough bread, cut into cubes
6 small very ripe tomatoes cut into quarters
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. marinated olives
1/2 cup freshly chopped basil

For the dressing:
1/2 cup good Olive Oil
1/4 cup aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt/Pepper

Whisk all together in a small bowl. It will begin to emulsify. Check for seasoning. 

My Nanna's colander, circa 1940. I love it!
Preparation:
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in warm oven for 20 minutes. Cool completely. If you don't toast the bread the bread salad will totally consume the dressing and become a goopy mess. 
Salt the tomatoes. This is an important step as the salt enhances the tomato flavor and brings out the liquid. Use 2 tsp. of Kosher salt, sprinkle over the tomatoes and have a plate underneath to collect the drippings. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Assemble all the ingredients, including any liquid from the tomatoes and stir together with the dressing. 
When the bread has been thoroughly coated with the dressing, serve. Garnish with a big sprig of basil. 

STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

This is a decadent, but delicious breakfast. Cut 3 thin slices of Sourdough per serving. Soak in egg batter that has been enhanced with a tsp. of brown sugar and a big sprinkling of cinnamon. Let it sit for about 20 minutes so the bread gets absorbed. In the meantime, heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat with 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add slices of nectarines and carefully brown/caramelize on each side of the fruit slice. Because of the high sugar content the nectarine burns quickly so watch them carefully. Set aside.
Mix 1 cup of cream cheese with 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Stir until well combined. Set aside. 
Once the bread has absorbed the egg, cook quickly in a heavy bottomed skillet with lots of butter. 

TO ASSEMBLE:
Layer each slice of bread with the cream cheese mixture, nectarines and repeat. I served with some lovely local Irish breakfast sausage. I should have layered the slices so you could see the cream cheese and nectarines inside instead of stacking them all together...next time!

QUINTESSENTIAL BREAKFAST SANDWICH

No recipe necessary. I used Irish breakfast sausage sliced in half, cream cheese, aged cheddar cheese and a soft egg. Put all the ingredients inside the bread and fry gently. Yes, we are having potato chips for breakfast! Why not?!? Ham, bacon, any other cheeses would also work well. I think the key to this sandwich is the soft cooked egg inside!

I KNOW I PROMISED POTATOES FOR THIS BLOG, 
BUT GOT SO EXCITED ABOUT SOURDOUGH THAT I COULDN'T RESIST. 

KEEP ON COOKING, EATING, ENJOYING AND 
EXPLORING IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN!
I LOVE LIFE! I LOVE FOOD! I LOVE COOKING!


www.cookwithcindy.com
















Saturday, June 11, 2022

EASIEST APPLESAUCE YOU'LL EVER MAKE!

I'm sure many of you have your own Apple Sauce recipe, but this is so easy I just had to share. The most time consuming part of this recipe is peeling and chopping the apples. Once that is done it takes under a half hour to make. If you have not made your own apple sauce, once having tried this, I guarantee you'll never buy it again.


I used 4 Gala apples and 2 Granny Smiths. The Granny Smiths are crisp and somewhat tart, which adds a nice balance to the sweeter Gala, but use any combination of apples you like. 

Ingredients:
4 Gala apples, peeled and chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. Demerara sugar (brown or white sugar will work, as well)
Pinch salt
1/3 cup water

Preparation:
Place all ingredients in a pot and slowly bring to a roiling boil; about 3-5 minutes. Stir, reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes or until apples are very tender and you have a sauce-like consistency.

Give a vigorous stir to start breaking down the apples. Using the back of a large spoon, mash the apples until they are mostly crushed. 

Cook another 10 minutes covered. Add a bit more water if the sauce becomes too thick. Remove from the heat. Cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, similar to cranberry sauce. I like a chunky Apple Sauce so it's now ready to serve warm or chilled. If you prefer your apple sauce smooth, put the mixture through a food mill. This is excellent on pork, spread over warm toast, topper with plain yogurt, baked ham, and on and on!

LOT'S MORE COOKING AHEAD!

NEXT UP, POTAOTES! 

YOU MIGHT THINK POTATOES ARE THE MOST POULAR VEG IN IRELAND, BUT A STUDY DONE A FEW YEARS AGO SHOW 75% OF PEOPLE CHOSE CARROTS TO BE THE WINNER.

POTOATOES ARE A CLOSE SECOND WITH 73% OF THE VOTE.
Our rugged back yard overlooking Galway Bay.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

THE HUMBLE CABBAGE

We ate a lot of cabbage growing up. My Mom's parent's were born in Hungary and cabbage was a staple in our house. One of her favorite dishes (and mine, too!) is Kaposzta Kocka Galuska, which she always just called Kaposzta, which means cabbage. Kocka translates to square, the traditional shape of the pasta used in this dish and Galuska means noodle. Mom always used her homemade pappardelle for this dish, an excellent choice as it's meaty and holds up well. 

There are many varieties of cabbage, but the most common is Green Cabbage. Growing up in a small, rural farming community in New Hampshire there were not a lot of cabbage choices so Green Cabbage it was. Here's her recipe for Hungarian Noodles and Cabbage

KAPOSZTA KOCKA GALUSKA-CABBAGE AND NOODLES
Ingredients:
16 oz. dried pasta
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 head cabbage, outer coarse leaves removed, cored and chopped
Salt (lots) and Pepper

Preparation:
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to boil. Stir in pasta. Return to boil, cook uncovered until pasta is just barely tender, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of pasta. Drain. This dish works best with dried pasta and Mom usually made big batches of pasta and then kept dried. 
Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed skillet, like cast iron. Add the chopped cabbage, salt, pepper and stir occasionally until the cabbage has wilted, about 5-8 minutes. 
Gently stir in cooked noodles. Check for seasoning. This dish needs a lot of salt. Cover and continue cooking on medium heat for another 20 minutes. 

I did recently do a twist on this comfort dish as I was making pork schnitzel and wanted to add a German style pasta so made the same dish with half the butter. I used 1/2 of a Sweetheart cabbage. Cook the cabbage down adding salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp. brown sugar. The sugar helps to caramelize the cabbage. Add 3 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar and 1 Tbsp. caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Add the noodles and you have a sweet and sour cabbage noodle dish. So easy!

MARY BERRY'S COLCANNON
Colcannon is to Ireland what Kaposzta is to Hungary. Simply delicious comfort food. I have talked about Ireland's famous comfort dish of Cabbage and Potatoes, but recently found this recipe from Mary Berry that sparks up the dish. Mary uses spring onions and cream, which made all the difference. Such a subtle, but noticeable difference. 

Ingredients:
8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 head Sweetheart cabbage, outer leaves removed, then sliced and chopped*
3 spring onions, white part only chopped
Equal amounts milk and cream; start with 1/4 cup each, add more if too stiff
4 Tbsp. butter, more for dotting top
Salt/Pepper
Potatoes mashed. Cabbage cooking.


*Also known as Conehead Cabbage.

Preparation:
Cook potatoes thoroughly in salted water. Drain. Add milk, cream and 2 tbsp. butter. Mash and season with salt and pepper. Add more milk/cream until you have the right consistency, not too thick, but also not runny. You can always add more liquid, but can't take away so be cautious as you as you go.  In a large, heavy bottomed skillet melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Add cabbage and cook until wilted, about 5-8 minutes. Add spring onions and cook another 2 minutes. Mix cabbage and potatoes. Adjust seasoning and add more milk/cream if necessary. Scoop into a buttered casserole, dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees F for about 1/2 hour until top is slightly browned. 

THAT'S IT FOR TODAY FROM SUNNY GALWAY BAY!

GREAT TO BE BACK IN IRELAND!

LOOKING FORWARD TO A FULL SUMMER SEASON OF ADVENTURES IN AND OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

I'M GOING TO CLOSE WITH A COUPLE PHOTOS FROM OUR RECENT TRIP TO THE CLIFFS OF MOHER IN CO. CLARE WITH OUR SON AND HIS WIFE. 

SO BEAUTIFUL!


Justin and Alison!
The Cliffs of Moher are more than 320 million years old. Truly majestic and awe inspiring. One of Ireland's most important bird breeding sites; home to more than 20 species of nesting birds with up to 30,000 breeding pairs found each year. We even saw puffins this time!

I wish this was my photo, but we couldn't get that close.




UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

MY FAVORITE LASAGNA AND A QUICK, SIMPLE HORS DOEUVRE!

 We're off to Ireland in a couple days so I wanted to share some food with you before we go. First, this easy, but very tasty hors d'oeuvre...

ROSEMARY PECANS

I found this recipe on the Real Simple website and they really are simple to make. I added a bit more rosemary than the recipe called for as I love the flavor of rosemary.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I almost always use Kerry Gold.)

1 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more if you want a spicier nut.

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 cups pecan halves

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (I used 3.)

Preparation:

Heat oven to 375. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the pecans and toss to evenly coat.

Transfer the pecans to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and arrange in a single layer. Bake, stirring occasionally, until toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the rosemary and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temp. 

I don't know how long they keep as they were gone as soon as I served them!

BEST EVER LASAGNA

This recipe came from the back of a Barilla lasagna noodle box. I was having a lasagna craving and the only lasagna noodles (No, I didn't make them this time!) were the oven-ready pasta. I have never used the no-cook pasta and had my doubts, but the lasagna came out perfectly. I did use my own tomato sauce, which I cooked the day before. I like Barilla sauce so if you don't have time, no problem, just use theirs. They call their recipe 5 Layer Oven-Ready Lasagna, but I only managed 3 layers in my 9x13 baking pan, which meant a few sheets of pasta left over. Because I used more cheese than their recipe called for, it filled the pan sooner. There really is no science to this. After all, it is a casserole! I served the lasagna with a Frico or cheese crisp inserted into the lasagna, and a simple salad with herby vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients:

1 box Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna

2 jars Barilla marinara sauce (or about 6 cups of your own)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. lean ground beef, browned (I used 3 Italian sausages browned out of their casings.)

Salt/Pepper to taste

15 oz. container ricotta cheese

4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I used 2 cups parm.)

I added 2 cloves of finely minced garlic as I browned the sausage.

I also added about 2 tsp. of dried oregano to the cheese mixture. 

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 375. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and brown the meat and garlic, if using, until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 cup parmesan. Add oregano, if using. Stir well. 

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour 1 cup of the sauce into the pan and spread to coat evenly. Place 3 sheets of lasagna side by side. Sheets will expand to ends of the dish while baking. I didn't believe this, but they did!

Pour 1 cup of sauce and 3/4 cup of the cheese mixture over the first layer. Just drop the cheese mixture by the teaspoon and spread evenly. Top with 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan and 1/3 cup of the cooked meat. Repeat for 3 more layers or as many layers as you can fit into the baking dish. 

For the final layer, top with 3 lasagna sheets, add the remaining sauce and top with remaining cheese mixture and mozzarella.

Cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more until cheese is bubbling. Let rest 15 minutes before serving. 

TO MAKE THE FRICO:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grate 1 cup of good quality parmesan (or any cheese you like). Don't use the pre-grated or pre-shredded cheese. It takes only a few minutes to grate the cheese yourself and the end result is much better. On a baking sheet drop about 2 Tbsp. of cheese and press with the bake of the spoon to flatten to roughly 3 inches. Space at least 1 inch apart as they will spread. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes until cheese melts and they are golden. Check on them to make sure they are not getting too brown. Remove from oven and let the Frico cool completely before removing from the pan. I served the Frico pressed into the lasagna to fancy it up a bit!

THAT'S IT FOR TODAY!
OFF TO IRELAND FOR THE SUMMER!
ROUNDSTONE-
One of my favorite villages west of us!

www.cookwithcindy.com